Miguel Delos Santos, 27, remains hospitalized after suffering several gunshot wounds
A FILIPINO American family is seeking answers after their 27-year-old son was shot multiple times in an encounter with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies during a mental health call in late April.
Miguel Delos Santos remains hospitalized at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where he is recovering after multiple surgeries and nearly a week in the intensive care unit following an incident on April 23 that is renewing questions of the use of excessive force and how law enforcement responds to mental health calls.
“The mental health component is something we have to take seriously because most mental health encounters with law enforcement result in death or serious bodily injury,” Claire Espina, the attorney representing Delos Santos’ family, told the Asian Journal.
In the early morning of April 23, Delos Santos’ fiancé Cielo Zavala Esquivel found him on the floor of their bedroom in a fetal position and was reportedly incoherent and unresponsive, according to Espina.
Esquivel called 911 and when paramedics came, Delos Santos allegedly stumbled into the hallway of their South LA home and was attempting to stab his neck with a pen he found.
LASD deputies were also on scene and were able to restrain Delos Santos, who was then transported by an ambulance to St. Francis Medical Center for treatment.
After that incident, around 4 p.m. on the same day, Espina recounted how Esquivel found Delos Santos at the front of their home after he was medically discharged.
“She let him in but it did not seem like he should have been released,” Espina said. “He was still incoherent and was showing signs of paranoia and delusions, saying things like people were out to get him.”
Though Delos Santos was reportedly not violent toward Esquivel, she was still worried about his safety and called 911 for a second time after failed attempts to calm him down.
The 27-year-old was said to have complied with paramedics and LASD deputies and was taken away by the ambulance again. However, less than an hour later, Delos Santos was back at home and continued to express fears that people “were trying to kill him,” Espina said.
His fiancé called for help a third time and paramedics, along with deputies, showed up with a mental health evaluation team. For roughly three hours, they pleaded with Delos Santos to leave the house; at around 8 p.m., he managed to escape from a side door.
As Delos Santos made his way to the gate of their front yard, Esquivel recalled hearing five or six gunshots fired, before he fell to the ground.
A report from the LASD’s homicide investigators alleged that Delos Santos — who is not named — was “holding a butcher’s knife in each hand but refused to drop the knives.”
“A 40mm less-lethal stun round was used to stop the man, but had no effect. When the suspect continued to charge at the deputies, two tasers were also deployed, but they had no effect. The man continued to charge at the deputies, with both knives still in hand, when a deputy involved shooting occurred,” the department’s incident report said.
Esquivel, however, said she does not recall seeing Delos Santos with any knives nor did he charge at an officer, according to Espina.
Following the shooting, Delos Santos was taken to the same Lynwood hospital and underwent a series of surgeries after suffering serious injuries to several vital organs, including his right kidney and liver. Whether he is slated to make a full recovery is uncertain, as of this writing.
“The bullets hit his torso and his lower left side. His right kidney was destroyed by a bullet and damaged and there’s about 85% left of his liver. He’s got a fractured leg and a bullet lodged in his spine and one in his pelvis,” Espina described. “Is this how you respond to someone who is obviously having a medical or psychological crisis? These are issues that need to be looked at.”
An LASD officer was reportedly positioned outside of Delos Santos’ hospital room, but was later removed, according to Espina.
His mother, Stephanie Delos Santos, who is based in Washington state, came to Los Angeles and is working with Espina for conservatorship to handle his care. But bigger issues are arising surrounding the use of excessive force by law enforcement, particularly in a mental health situation.
“What’s important here is that there were three interventions by paramedics and why did the two previous interventions fail? He should have been on that 72-hour hold. If they did not pay attention to those issues initially, I think there is a failure of care here — not only on the law enforcement side but the paramedics and hospital,” Espina said.
Delos Santos’ family is now speaking candidly about their son’s history with depression and past opioid use. At the time of the incident, no drugs were reported in his system and he had reportedly been clean for several years.
Delos Santos had been living in LA for several years, working as a server at restaurants in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. However, he became unemployed during the pandemic, which his family believes could have contributed to his mental state.
“But he was looking towards a career change, which is why he began and completed the full stack web development program at UCLA Extension right at the beginning of the pandemic. He’s very good at coding, and you could tell he enjoyed it because he was so focused during his schooling,” his mother Stephanie said in a statement emailed to the Asian Journal.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Delos Santos’ family with medical expenses. As of this writing, over $17,000 has been raised.
Espina is also calling on the local Fil-Am community to help put pressure on the LASD to release body cam footage from April 23 and other information in the investigation.
“Community pressure results in discovery being obtained. The expression of support becomes very important in these cases so that information is disgorged. Otherwise, it would be swept under the rug and the community would never find out about these things,” Espina said.