Inmate Awaiting Murder Trial Indicted by Grand Jury for Attempting to Murder Sheriff’s Deputy, Attacking Two Others

Case # 20ZF0004

Assaults on Jail Staff Have Increased 140% since AB109 was Implemented

SANTA ANA, Calif. – An inmate awaiting trial for murder and attempted murder has been indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury on charges he attempted to kill an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy and attacked two other peace officers inside the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.

Emmanuel Vega, 36, of Riverside, was indicted on one felony count of attempted murder of a peace officer with premeditation and deliberation, one felony count of aggravated assault on a peace officer, and two misdemeanor counts of battery on a peace officer in connection with the January 12, 2019 attack inside Theo Lacy. He pled not guilty on February 28, 2020 and is currently being held on $1 million bail.

Vega faces a maximum of 15 years to life if convicted on all four counts.

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, assaults by Orange County Jail inmates have increased exponentially since implementation of AB109.  Prior to AB109, from 2007 to 2011, there was an average of 26.8 inmate-on-staff assaults per year.  From 2012 to 2017, the six years after AB109 was implemented, there was an average of 64.5 inmate assaults on staff per year – a 140 percent increase.  Inmate-on-inmate assaults are increasing as well.  From 2007 to 2011, there was an average of 334 inmate-on-inmate assaults per year.  From 2012 to 2017, there was an average of 745 inmate-on-inmate assaults per year – a 123 percent increase.  On any given day, there are approximately 825 state prisoners serving their multi-year sentences in Orange County Jail.

“Our local jails have become violent state prisons because of terrible policy decisions out of Sacramento. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will vigorously and forcefully prosecute anyone who commits violence against any Orange County jail personnel,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Housing hardened criminals in local jails that were never intended to hold these kind of violent career criminals is putting the safety of our law enforcement officers at risk more than ever before – and Orange County is suffering the effects. It is alarming and unacceptable that our law enforcement officers are increasingly becoming the targets of violence behind bars. We will not tolerate it.”

“This attempted murder against a member of our Department was investigated by the Sheriff’s Custody Intelligence Unit and the case was presented to the District Attorney’s Office,” said Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes. “A crime of this severity is indicative of a sophisticated criminal element operating within our jails. These state-prisoners-turned-county-inmates are more criminally sophisticated, increasing both the inmate assaults on staff and the amount of narcotics being trafficked into Orange County Jails. This is a challenge that sheriffs statewide are experiencing. We are taking proactive steps to address and mitigate the impacts. It is important for the public to know the reality of these problems and the consequence of poor public policy that has created them.”