Four San Francisco sheriff’s deputies were placed on administrative leave and are currently under investigation after a public defender accused them of forcing Black and Latino inmates into “gladiator-style” fight clubs, CNN reports.
On Thursday, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate after the city’s public defender, Jeff Adachi, accused White deputies of coercing the inmates — all men of color — to fight each other or risk facing torture. The deputies reportedly placed bets on the brutal matches.
In one incident, an inmate identified as Ricardo Palikiko Garcia was forced to fight an inmate twice his size.
According to CNN:
Adachi interviewed the victims, who were being held at the Hall of Justice, including inmate Garcia. “Deputy’s betting against me and forcing me to fight and if I don’t fight, then he’s basically telling me that he was going to beat me up, cuff me, Tase me all at once,” Garcia said in an audio recording.
The deputies spurred Garcia’s 350-pound adversary on, Adachi told CNN affiliate KGO. “Chanting like, ‘Get him. Get him. Hit him. (Expletive) him up or kick him in the (expletive). Stuff like that,” Garcia said.
If the inmates won, they were promised hamburgers, Adachi said in a press release.
Garcia, who alluded that the fights have been going on for quite some time, says he was forced to do push-ups to train for the matches. Inmates and deputies who knew about the fight clubs kept mum, CNN reports.
“It is impossible for just two or three or even four deputies to commandeer the jail and stage fights without other deputies being aware of it,” said public defender Matt Gonzalez. “Common sense indicates that such conduct does not occur without the knowledge of numerous people,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement.
According to USA Today, an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Deputies Association accused Adachi of exaggerating his allegations, claiming the deputies may have encouraged inmates to wrestle, which in his opinion was “essentially little more than horseplay.”
CNN reports that the deputy identified as the main instigator, Scott Neu, was also accused of sexually assaulting inmates in 2006.
He was never convicted. An investigation into the fight clubs continues.