Women Sue LA County Sheriff's Department Over Traumatizing ‘High Risk’ Traffic Stop

Women Sue LA County Sheriff's Department Over Traumatizing ‘High Risk’ Traffic Stop

Two women filed a lawsuit against LA County this week following an allegedly abusive traffic stop by LA County Sheriff’s Department of a domestic abuse survivor advocate on her way to deliver furniture to a shelter last year.

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The ordeal started on September 25, 2022, according to KTLA. Advocate Gabriela Koutantos was driving a U-Haul van in East LA while her mother, Barbara Kappos, trailed her in her own vehicle. Koutantos rented the van to bring donated furniture to a local women’s shelter.

LA County Sheriff’s Department deputies, believing the van was stolen, executed a “high-risk” traffic stop near Atlantic Boulevard and Hubbard Street. They allegedly held Koutantos at gunpoint, handcuffed her and “held her in a lengthy detention in a police car,” according to her complaint.

When Koutantos mother arrived at the site of the traffic stop to see sheriffs had Koutantos on the ground.

Ms. Kappos got out of her car and ran up the street toward her daughter shouting, “What are you doing? That’s my daughter!” None of the deputies responded as they continued pointing their weapons at Ms. Koutantos. Ms. Kappos thought the deputies might kill her daughter,” the complaint adds.

According to Koutantos lawyer, even after contacting U-Haul and confirming that she had rented the van and seeing the rental agreement, the sheriff’s deputies held Koutantos for “a considerable period of time.” After some more checking it turns out the van had been stolen over a month earlier and it had been recovered within a week of it being stolen. Koutantos had nothing to do with the theft.

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Now Koutantos and her mother suing the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Their lawyer is accusing the department of using “high-risk” tactics during low-risk traffic stops for nonviolent potential property crime, according to KTLA:

The “terrifying and traumatizing tactics” threatened Koutantos’ physical safety and caused emotional distress to her and her mother, according to the complaint.

The women’s lawyer alleges that the “high-risk” traffic stops have already been declared unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal nearly 10 years ago, but “the Sheriff’s Department has defied the Court and continues to terrify and traumatize innocent Angelenos.”

It’s possible the LASD may have violated  a 2014 ruling by U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that deemed such stops unconstitutional. “LASD is sworn to uphold the law, but they have a deliberate policy that violates the Constitution every day. It’s outrageous. They must be held accountable,” Koutantos’ attorney Brian Olney told KTLA.