The Lynwood Vikings were a clique in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) based out of the Lynwood, California station. Its members have included Deputy Sheriff Paul Tanaka, the second-in-command of Sheriff Lee Baca. After lawsuits repeatedly surfaced concerning the group's activities, the Vikings were described by federal judge Terry Hatter as a "neo-Nazi" gang engaged in racially motivated hostility. According to sociologist Rob Sullivan, its members were committed to the "valorization" of Aryans.
The first LASD clique, the "Little Devils," was founded at the East L.A. station in 1971, and had an overwhelmingly white membership among deputies who patrolled African-American and Latino communities. Other LASD cliques have included the Hats, the Little Devils, the Jump Out Boys, the Grim Reapers, the 2000 Boys, the 3000 Boys, and the Regulators. Sheriff Lee Baca, while objecting to police gang behaviors, has stated that banning them would be unconstitutional.
In 1988, one year after joining the Vikings, then-Sergeant Paul Tanaka was named in a wrongful death suit that the LASD settled for almost $1 million; the case involved Tanaka's shooting of a young Korean man. In the following year, Baca sent Captain Bert Cueva, who is of Latino ancestry, to "stamp out this Viking phenomenon;" Cueva was unsuccessful and left his post in 1992.
The Vikings first rose to prominence in 1990, when misconduct litigation accused the LASD and its clubs of racist violence. Lawyers suing the department stated that their clients were beaten, shot or harassed, and demanded to know if alleged perpetrators had Vikings tattoos on their ankles. Among the Viking tattoos was the symbol "998," which stands for "officer-involved shooting," indicating that the officer has been involved in a shooting. Former LASD under-sheriff Jerry Harper described the 998 tattoos as "a mark of pride." The 1992 Kolts Commission on police brutality in Los Angeles found that cliques like the Vikings were found especially in areas with large minority populations, but did not "conclusively demonstrate the existence of racist deputy gangs."
Deputy Mike Osborne told the Los Angeles Times that an invitation to join the Vikings was considered prestigious, but also meant that a code of silence was enforced concerning illegal activity by other deputies. After Osborne and his wife, Deputy Aurora Mellado, testified about police corruption, they and their children were shot at in their home by what Osborne believes were disgruntled sheriff's deputies.
In 1996, a federal judge ordered that the LASD pay $9 million in fines for lawsuits caused by the Vikings. Sheriff Sherman Block opposed the judge's decision, calling it "irrational and wrong," and stated that no evidence existed demonstrating that the Vikings were a racist group. When Baca confronted deputies about Viking membership in 1997, LASD superiors cautioned him against angering officers and provoking a backlash.
In 2011, Francisco Carillo Jr., a prisoner accused and convicted 20 years earlier of murder, sued the LASD and one of its deputies, saying he had been framed by the Lynwood Vikings. Carrillo complained that the deputy and fellow Vikings had intimidated a key witness into making false statements.
- Sullivan, Rob (2014). Street Level: Los Angeles in the Twenty-First Century. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 23–4.
- O'Conner, Anne-Marie; Duant, Tina (24 March 1999). "The Secret Society Among Lawmen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- Wilson, Simone (20 April 2012). "L.A. SHERIFF'S GANG 'JUMP OUT BOYS' REPORTEDLY PRIDES ITSELF ON OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS". LA Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
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- Reynolds, Matt (16 December 2011). "Man Says Neo-Nazi Cops Cost Him 20 Years". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved 16 July 2015.