4 SoCal Police Officers Arrested on Suspicion of Boot Camp Abuse - NBC Connecticut
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4 SoCal Police Officers Arrested on Suspicion of Boot Camp Abuse

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    Four Southern California police officers were arrested on suspicion of physically abusing children at a police-run boot camp for troubled youths, sheriff's officials said Wednesday.

    Sheriff's detectives arrested Detective Marissa Larios, 36, and Officer Patrick Nijland, 47, of the Huntington Park Police Department and officers Carlos Gomez-Marquez, 31, and Edgar Gomez, 35, of the South Gate Police Department on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department.

    All four suspects posted bond and were not in custody Wednesday, officials said. It was not immediately clear if they had obtained lawyers.

    Parents said their children underwent seven days of physical and verbal abuse while attending the Leadership, Empowerment and Discipline Program from May 17-24 at a National Guard base in the Central Coast community of San Luis Obispo.

    The camp was sponsored by the police departments of Huntington Park and South Gate. Program administrators say the goal of LEAD is to "redirect" at-risk youth.

    One mother, Araceli Pulido, who sent her 12 and 14-year-old daughters, said one of her girls was "slapped in the face" and "kicked in the ribs if she didn't do her push-ups right.

    "One of my oldest daughters said she wanted to become a cop," Pulido said. "She's traumatized. They told her they got paid for her to get hit."

    Another parent said her 13-year-old son was also assaulted at the camp.

    "They had him by the neck with their forearm and they just beat in his head, stomach, everywhere," she said.

    San Luis Obispo County sheriff's detectives began investigating the allegations after receiving a report from the LA County Department of Children and Family Services on May 28.

    Detectives interviewed 37 camp participants and identified 13 children ranging in age from 12 to 17 who claimed to have been assaulted by the drill instructors.

    This week, deputies served search warrants at the suspects' homes and took them into custody.

    The four officers face charges including willful cruelty to a child, criminal battery and abuse under color of authority.