Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who is running for re-election in Kern County, California, was revealed on camera saying that it’s financially better to kill suspects rather than let them live. However, he has argued that this video is being taken out of context. Now his video is being shown across national news, but this actually isn’t the first time he’s been in the public eye. Vice ran an investigative piece several years ago, looking at violence and arrest procedures by law enforcement in his county. And in 2012, his estranged wife caught the eye of national news when she was mauled by a K9. But his supporters are still passionate about his campaign, and say that many of these reports do not have the full facts. Here is everything you need to know about Youngblood.
1. Donny Youngblood Said He Regretted the Video Which Was Taken Out of Context, But His County Has Been Scrutinized for Violence in the Past
A controversial 2006 video has resurfaced while Youngblood is seeking re-election in Kern County, California. CNN reported that the video, which you can watch above, was made during Youngblood’s first campaign for sheriff. He was discussing deputy training and asks whether it is better for the county financially to cripple or kill someone who is shot by a deputy. Someone suggested killing is better and he agreed. “Because if you cripple them you gotta take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.” Earlier in the video, he said the difference in cost between the two can be millions of dollars. “When a guy makes a bad shoot on somebody and kills them, three million bucks and the family goes away, after a long back and forth. When it happens in corrections, it’s a totally different ballgame.”
The video was released by the Kern County Detention Officers Association, who is supporting his opponent Justin Fleeman for the sheriff’s election.
Youngblood has said that he wasn’t trying to imply that officers should shoot to kill, but only was describing how much police violence can cost. He told Bakersfield Now that he was only trying to explain that just because someone doesn’t die, doesn’t mean that the police escape with less money spent. He admitted that the wording didn’t sound good and he wished he had said things differently.
The union that released the video actually endorsed him in 2006. Youngblood said that the union might have released the video because deputies haven’t had a pay raise in eight or nine years because of the economy, causing a lot of disenfranchisement.
This isn’t the first time that Kern County law enforcement came under media scrutiny. The Guardian reported in 2015 that Kern County’s police killed more people per capita than any other American county that year. Vice reported in 2013 that the Sheriff’s Office deputies had a history of using extreme force to subdue suspects. In 2013, David Sal Silva, 33, died while being arrested and his death was ruled accidental. Silva was found passed out in the grass at Kern Medical Center after drinking, and he was escorted off the Medical Center grounds. Officers responded to a call about a man who was intoxicated. Youngblood said that they found Silva lying on the ground and when he tried to stand, he fell on his face. Youngblood said a deputy told Silva to submit to arrest or he’d release his dog. “He used a remote to release his dog from the car, and the dog engaged Mr. Silva. During this fight the dog bit Mr. Silva several times.” In the end, there were nine law enforcement officers fighting Silva with batons, Vice reported, and he was pronounced dead at 12:44 a.m. The coroner’s cause of death was hypertensive heart disease, acute intoxication, and severe abdominal obesity, with the manner of death listed as an accident. He had a .095 blood alcohol level (the legal limit is .08) and small amounts of Klonopin, Adderall, and meth in his system. Silva’s family ultimately received a $3.4 million settlement from Kern County. But the DA did not file charges because an investigation did not find any evidence of blunt force trauma causing his death.
In 2013, the Huffington Post wrote an article about the death of Jose Lucero in 2010. He also died while being arrested by Kern County deputies. Youngblood, serving as the coroner, ruled the cause of death as cardiac arrest due to methamphetamine intoxication. A jury awarded $4.5 million to Lucero’s parents.
2. His Wife Was Mauled By a Police K9 During an Investigation of Their Son
Youngblood’s then-estranged wife, Victoria Youngblood, was mauled by a police K9 after her home was searched in an investigation against their son, Aaron Youngblood, in 2012. Her attorney, Daniel Rodriguez, said that she was asleep in her bedroom when she woke up to feeling a dog clamping on her head and “crunching” her bones, Bakersfield Now reported. Her right ear was mutilated and she was at risk of losing her hearing. Police went to the home with a search warrant after Aaron was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, receiving stolen property, and carrying a concealed weapon. He didn’t live with his mother. Police made their presence known before entering, but Victoria was asleep. Sgt. Joe Grubbs said: “The (K-9) handler was careful about giving announcement. The person (Victoria Youngblood) didn’t announce themselves, so the K-9 engaged, the K-9 found the person and engaged.”
The raid of Victoria’s home revealed drugs, paraphernalia, weapons, and police and sheriff’s uniforms, along with evidence of drug sales, Bakersfield Now reported. The BPD later settled with Victoria for $500,000, KGET reported.
Aaron had quite a few run-ins with the law. A 2009 article by ABC 23, written after Aaron was robbed at gunpoint, shared that his arrests included a DUI, felony weapons charges, and a felony charge for possessing a controlled substance. Aaron told Bakersfield Now in May 2012 that he had always been under public scrutiny because of his dad’s job. He said that after he served his time in jail, he might consider law school, because he planned to get past his bad reputation.
3. Youngblood, a Vietnam Veteran, Became an Advocate for Valley Fever Education After His Girlfriend Fell Ill from the Disease
Youngblood became a passionate advocate for raising awareness about valley fever (Coccidioidomycosis) after his significant other got sick and suffered extreme fatigue for three months, requiring treatment, KVPR reported. “Dishes have to be washed, meals have to be cooked. When you have a situation where two people share those things then it dwindles to one, it can be taxing,” he told ABC 23.
He also had a relative who died of the disease several years ago. The symptoms include fever, cough, and extreme fatigue from breathing in fungus spores. Some people can be sick for life or even die.
Youngblood is a Vietnam War veteran who served 14 months in South Vietnam. He served in the military from 1968 to 1971, and joined the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in 1971 as a correctional officer at Lerdo Facility. He began training to be a deputy sheriff in 1974. He grew up working in potato sheds in Bakersfield, the LA Times reported. He said he’s happiest when he’s riding his quarter horse Sparky or when he’s hiking. He also has two Hollywood appearances. In 2010 he was listed in the “special thanks” section after an episode of Cops. And in 2008, he appeared as himself in the documentary Witch Hunt. He also has a pilot’s license.
4. Youngblood Is an Avid Republican Who Believed Medical Marijuana Attracted Drug Cartels & Hopes Trump’s Presidency Will Help Law Enforcement
Youngblood is a staunch Republican who said that President Donald Trump’s election would help law enforcement, who has been going through a tough time over the years prior. “I went home after the election the first time in about two years just enthused,” Gridley Herald reported that Youngblood shared. “…I was very frightened where we were headed because quite frankly we were on the verge of anarchy in this country. We truly were on the verge of anarchy.” He said cell phone cameras, the public’s unfamiliarity with the use of force, and media coverage attributed to the negative view of law enforcement. “All use of force is ugly,” he said. “Any time you use a baton or a Taser on someone it’s ugly.”
He works willingly with immigration authorities, and asked the county Board of Supervisors to adopt a resolution declaring Kern a “law and order” county instead of a sanctuary county, LA Times reported. He said that deputies don’t enforce immigration laws or participate in federal immigration sweeps, but they should allow their federal partners to do their jobs. He also opposed the California Trust Act, a 2014 law that barred local law enforcement from holding illegal immigrants beyond their release date, if immigration authorities requested this. He gives ICE agents space in his jails to take custody of illegal immigrants, the Daily Caller reported.
A 2011 article by the New York Times shared that Youngblood was opposed to medical marijuana in his county. He said a Proposition allowing medical marijuana dispensaries was a “sham” that flew in the face of common decency and federal law. “It’s not just a legal stand, it’s really a moral stand,” he said. He said marijuana was destroying public lands in his county and bringing weapons into a peaceful rural community because of criminal cartels. He said the marijuana issue was about money, not medicine.
5. Despite the Recent Negative Press, He Still Has Many Passionate Supporters
Despite the recent negative press, Youngblood still has a lot of passionate supporters.
Lynn Watkins wrote on a public Facebook post: “I saw him come out of retirement to run for Sheriff because of his genuine concern about the Departments Leadership and the direction it was headed. I don’t often get involved in political campaigns but I did work hard for Donny in his first campaign because my old Department needed a steady hand at the helm and he hasn’t disappointed! … Donny’s hard work and influence secured a state grant to build a new jail facility saving Kern County taxpayers millions. Kern County Deputies deserve more money and they are losing good people because of it but I know Donny is trying and has appealed to the Board of Supervisors on numerous occasions!”
Kevin Cornelius wrote in a public Facebook post: “I went to Donny’s swearing in ceremony at the Kern County fairgrounds… When he got about half thru his speech he mentioned how proud his mom would have been to see what he had accomplished If she was still alive. Donny got choked up a bit but made it threw his speech. What I’m getting at is this guys got a heart of gold and it shows in how he carries himself by.” [sic]
Kern County Sheriff’s Department Retired Commander Randy Turman shared on Facebook (as shared by Carol Langston): “For several years, Sheriff Youngblood was my direct supervisor. Never in my entire career did I have a better boss. I was given his goals for my unit, I was empowered to reach and exceed those goals, and I was backed to the max. I’ve said it before and I’ll have to say it again, Donny Youngblood was the best leader I ever worked for. I also have to say I haven’t always agreed with all of his decisions. But I always knew his decisions came from the heart… I’m retired, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but Sheriff Youngblood has earned my respect and support.”