– Complaint alleges Detective Lieutenant James Royal was retaliated against for attempting to warn the public about seven shootings in the park prior to the murder of Tristan Beaudette –
LOS ANGELES (June 7, 2019) – Los Angeles-based trial firm McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP, filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of James Royal, a Detective Lieutenant at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station who was retaliated against for attempting to warn the public about seven shootings that occurred in Malibu Creek State Park before the murder of Tristan Beaudette on June 22, 2018. The lawsuit alleges Royal urged the Department to warn the public about shootings that occurred between November 2016 and June 2018, but was allegedly told by superiors that no such warning would be given. When Beaudette’s wife sued the Department for negligence for failing to warn the public about the series of shootings (the very thing Lt. Royal wanted to warn about), the Department began retaliating against Lt. Royal to control him. This included initiating a baseless Internal Affairs investigation against, and subjecting Royal to “freeway therapy” by transferring him out of his unit so that he must commute approximately 80 more miles a day to work, stripping him of his Detective status and his overtime opportunities, and assigning him less favorable shifts.
“Lt. Royal attempted to discharge his duty to the public and was shut down, and when the department actually got sued for failing to do the very thing he begged them to do, they turned the power of the badge against him to shut him down and control him…because they know he will soon be a witness in the civil wrongful death lawsuit,” said Matthew McNicholas, Partner at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP.
The lawsuit alleges the following:
In January 2017, Detective Lieutenant Royal became aware of three shootings that occurred in Malibu Creek State Park. Royal immediately notified his supervisors and urged the Department to issue a public safety statement. Royal was told by his superiors that it was the “State Park’s problem” and would not to be handled by the Sheriff’s Department.
Between June 2017 and June 2018, four additional shootings occurred in the same area. During this period, Royal insisted that the Department warn the public about the series of shootings. His requests to issue a public statement were again denied by his superiors, including Chief John Benedict.
On June 22, 2018, Tristan Beaudette was shot and killed while camping with his two young daughters in the Malibu Creek State Park campground. After his murder, others came forward with reports of hearing gunfire in the area, resulting in a public uproar.
In August 2018, a town hall meeting was held to address the Beaudette murder, the other shootings and why the public was not warned. Royal was instructed to attend the town hall to communicate the Department’s official position that the prior series of shootings were unrelated to the Beaudette murder. This, of course, was not Royal’s position; however, he was told the “Department’s position” was the only position that mattered. Chief Benedict sat in one of the front rows at the town hall to intimidate Royal to stay on script.
In October 2018, Anthony Rauda, a vagrant living in the surrounding area, was captured and later charged with the murder of Tristan Beaudette. In December 2018, Beaudette’s family (widow Erica Wu and his daughters) filed a lawsuit for more than $90 million in damages against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and other state and local agencies, accusing them of failing to warn the public about the shootings in and around the area before the slaying.
In December 2018, the Department obtained internal correspondence showing that Royal and his Captain met with Chief Benedict before the Beaudette murder and that Royal requested that a public safety statement be released regarding the prior shootings. With the awareness that the County was facing significant liability for the wrongful death lawsuit, individuals within the Department began retaliating against Royal.
In January 2019, Royal was transferred from his Detective Lieutenant assignment at Malibu/Lost Hills Station to the Santa Clarita Station, a much less coveted assignment. Royal had his Detective status removed, lost his overtime opportunities and was assigned less favorable shifts. Further, Royal now must commute approximately 80 more miles a day to work. This is commonly known in law enforcement agencies as the Department giving an employee “freeway therapy.”
Furthermore, the Department retaliated by making Royal the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation in which he is accused of committing serious misconduct by interfering with an investigation. Contrary to the accusations, Royal never violated any policies, procedures, laws, or regulations relating to the shootings or any other agency investigation.
McNicholas & McNicholas, a Los Angeles-based plaintiff’s trial law firm, represents clients in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, employment law, class actions, sexual abuse and other consumer-oriented matters such as civil rights, aviation disasters and product liability. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, McNicholas & McNicholas has been trying cases to jury verdict on behalf of its clients for more than five decades.
McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP
10866 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Berbay Marketing & PR