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Assault Charges Filed Against Jail Custody Deputies

Assault charges have been filed against two custody deputies who work in the Santa Barbara County Jail, according to a statement released Friday by District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

Custody deputies Robert Kirsch, 30, and Christopher Johnson, 28, were each charged with a violation of assault by a public officer, a felony, stemming from an alleged assault against an inmate being housed at the jail, the statement said.

According to the one-page complaint against the two men, Kirsch and Johnson allegedly assaulted and beat Charles Alonzo Owens "under color of authority, the defendants being then and there public officers" on June 17.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department also weighed in on the incident Friday, saying that a complaint of unnecessary use of force by two custody deputies in the jail was brought to the department’s attention by the Public Defender’s Office on June 18.  

“The Sheriff’s Office immediately initiated an investigation into the matter and shared its findings with the District Attorney’s Office,” the statement said.

After reviewing the evidence, the District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against the two custody deputies involved.

“Our agency does not tolerate the unnecessary or excessive use of force,” Sheriff Bill Brown said in the statement.

“The behavior alleged in the criminal complaint is contrary to the high standards of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office," Brown said. "I am saddened by these allegations that do not reflect the conduct and actions of the vast majority of the hundreds of men and women of the Sheriff’s Office, who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving others.”

Brown said that the custody deputies, who have both been placed on administrative leave, are entitled to due process, and the case will now work its way through the criminal-justice system and an internal review within the Sheriff’s Office.

Owens, 25, of Lompoc has been in custody since 2011 on a variety of serious charges, including a 2007 gang-related slaying in Lompoc, and a separate case that involves rape, forced sodomy, attempted oral copulation, domestic battery and witness intimidation.

The custody deputies will be arraigned on Aug. 30.

A sheriff's spokesman said booking photos of the custody deputies were not available.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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