Someone using a stun gun like a cattle prod assaulted a dozen patients last fall at the Sonoma Developmental Center, inflicting painful thermal burns on their buttocks, arms, legs and backs.
The center's in-house police force, the Office of Protective Services, had a suspect from the start. An anonymous whistle-blower called a tip line in September and accused Archie Millora, a caregiver at the Sonoma center, of abusing several profoundly disabled men at the Eldrige center with high-voltage probes.
Detectives found burn injuries on the patients, according to internal records obtained by California Watch. The following morning, they discovered a Taser and a loaded handgun in Millora's car at the center.
The facility is one of five state-run board-and-care institutions that serve roughly 1,700 residents with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and severe autism -- disabilities that make communication difficult, if not impossible.
The one victim who is able to speak named Millora and used the word "stun" when interviewed by a detective at the center, according to a state licensing record.
As part of an ongoing investigation of the state's five developmental centers, California Watch has detailed how the institutions' internal police force, created by the state to protect the vulnerable residents at these state homes, often fails to conduct basic police work when patients are abused and harmed.
In case after case, detectives and officers have delayed interviews with witnesses or suspects -- if they have conducted interviews at all. The force also has waited too long to collect evidence or secure crime scenes and has been accused of going easy on co-workers who care for the disabled.
Those shortfalls again were on display in the Taser case, records show.
After the assaults were discovered, the Office of Protective Services made no arrest, deciding to handle it as an administrative matter. Also, at least nine days after the revelations, records show, detectives still had not interviewed Millora, whose personal Facebook page includes wall photos of assault weapons and handguns.
"There's absolutely no excuse for allowing that to happen like that without any ramifications," Assemblywoman Connie Conway, the Republican leader from Tulare, said of the stun gun assaults.
After California Watch published its initial investigation about the state police force, a former state worker alerted reporters to the Taser incidents at the Sonoma Developmental Center. Other whistle-blowers turned over records to the news organization. The state Department of Developmental Services, which operates the developmental centers and in-house police force, has not responded to requests for additional documentation.
The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office announced this week it would review the stun gun cases after examining state Department of Public Health records.
"We're continuing to review the entire case; we haven't closed the door on our investigation," said Spencer Brady, chief deputy district attorney.
In a statement, Terri Delgadillo, director of the state Department of Developmental Services, said the center's investigation "included interviews of over 100 individuals, including the suspect who was interviewed on three separate occasions and terminated from employment."
She said that the department took the matter seriously and is continuing to investigate, nearly a year after the abuse occurred.
Millora, who started working as a caregiver at the center in 1998, according to the Department of Developmental Services, was fired in November, state controller records show. He did not respond to multiple interview requests made by phone and in person at his home.