Crime Beat

CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST AMAURIE JOHNSON AFTER BODY CAM VIDEO FAILS TO BACK LMPD OFFICER’S ACCOUNT

 

Incident sparked protest May 30 that ended in riot

By Kendra Sitton and Miriam Raftery

Photo: Amaurie Johnson, courtesy of Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Warning: videos contain strong language

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa Police Department has dropped charges against Amaurie Johnson, a black man whose controversial arrest was captured in a viral video last week.  Demostrations last Saturday at the LMPD headquarters protested the arrest of Johnson as well as the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

 La Mesa Chief of Police Walt Vasquez announced yesterday that "after a full review of all of the evidence in the criminal investigation" against Johnson, the police department will not seek prosecution "on any of the alleged misdemeanor charges."

The announcement follows release of body cam footage released June 3 showing the interactions between Johnson, 23, and La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages near the Grossmont Trolley Station on Wednesday, May 27.  That footage does not support the officer’s version of events but does show Dages pushing Johnson and grabbing his shirt.

Johnson had been arrested for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, which he denied.


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CONFRONTATIONS HEIGHTEN RACIAL TENSIONS IN SANTEE

Threats on social media prompt preparations for potential clashes tonight or this weekend

By Miriam Raftery; ECM journalists and photographers Rebecca Jefferis Williamson, Henri Migala and Paul Kruze contributed to this report.

Photo, left by Henri Migala: Sheriff's officers cleared those on both sides of a contentious protest Monday night in Santee


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LA MESA ESTABLISHES TIP LINE FOR RIOT-RELATED CRIMES

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, left via Facebook:  Alleged looters at La Mesa Springs shopping center

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) --  The La Mesa Police Department and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced today that they will aggressively pursue the arrest and prosecution of any individuals found to have committed crimes during the riot that occurred on the evening of May 30th, 2020, in La Mesa including arson, vandalism and looting.

“We are seeking the public’s help,” a release issued by the city today states. If anyone has any information, including videos or photos, that they think might lead to identification of any suspects, please forward them to any of the following:


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WITNESS TO CHAOS

Story and photos by Jake Rose, photographer

June 5, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The afternoon protests against police violence in La Mesa on Saturday afternoon started off entirely peaceful. After the march, the crowd moved to the La Mesa Police Department parking lot, their final destination. The crowd advanced up the steps to the front door without incident and remained there chanting and cheering for about an hour, until someone in the crowd threw a small plastic water bottle towards the police guarding the building.

The police immediately responded with tear gas and concussion grenades and the crowd dispersed across the parking lot. After a few minutes, the crowd slowly reconvened in front of the police station and began chanting, until again, a water bottle was thrown and the chaos repeated itself.


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LA MESA LEADERS ADDRESS UNREST, PROMISE REVIEW, END OF POLICE CHOKEHOLD AT PRESS CONFERENCE

Lack of answers stokes activists’ anger after violent arrest, injured woman at protest

By Kendra Sitton

Photo,left by Kendra Sitton: La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez

June 5, 1010 (La Mesa) – At a press conference held Wednesday, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis, Chief of Police Walt Vasquez and other officials provided more information on the protests and riots that engulfed the city last Saturday. Officials also revealed more details about two recent controversial police incidents in La Mesa, although not enough to satisfy the citizens involved and their families.


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AFTER BURNING, BANKS’ SERVICE IMPACTED BY BRANCH CLOSURES; UNION BANK PLEDGES TO REBUILD

 

By Kendra Sitton

Paul Kruze also contributed to this report

Photo, left by Jake Rose:  Chase bank collapses as arson fire engulfs downtown La Mesa branch

June 4, 2020 (La Mesa) -- “Crazy people burned down my bank!” a customer explained to the teller at a Chase branch on Grossmont Ave. early Monday, June 1.

Branches of Chase Bank and Union Bank were both burned to the ground after protests turned fiery late Saturday night. Despite riot police and other reinforcements from the San Diego Sheriff's department, La Mesa Police and Heartland Fire were overwhelmed as rioters overran the citywreaking havoc that slowed responses.


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FBI SEEKS INFORMATION ON PEOPLE INCITING VIOLENCE DURING PROTESTS AND COMMITTING VIOLENT ACTS AMID CIVIL UNREST

Witnesses are urged to send tips, photos, videos and surveillance footage to the FBI

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left, by Jake Rose:  Bystanders shoot video as Randall Lamb engineering firm's offices in a historical structure burns

June 4, 2020 (La Mesa) – The FBI is asking for the public’s help to identify and arrest violent instigators and those who committed crimes such as arson and looting in the wake of protests across the nation. This includes La Mesa, where violence erupted after Saturday’s protests including burning two banks, vehicles and a historic building as well as vandalism and looting at dozens of local businesses.

Many photos and videos showing crimes in progress during the chaos locally have been posted on social media sites, including some aired by local media organizations.  Many of those contain images that may provide evidence of one or multiple crimes, when compared to other sources of documentation such as surveillance footage taken of looters during the pillaging and burning of local stores and financial institutions.

“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution is dual and simultaneous, not contradictory,” a press released issued by the national FBI in Washington D.C. states.  “Accordingly, we are committed to apprehending and charging violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law.”


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CALIFORNIA NATIONAL GUARD DEPLOYED IN DOWNTOWN LA MESA

 

Conflicting Information About Action Causes Media Confusion

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson:  National Guard patrols La Mesa's downtown village

 

 

June 4, 2020 (La Mesa) -- At the request of San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore, the California National Guard has been deployed to downtown La Mesa to support law enforcement there as protests continue calling for racial justice and police reform.

Confusion and misinformation prevailed Wednesday night, however, when East County Magazine received conflicting information from various normally reliable sources as to whether or not the California National Guard had been deployed at the La Mesa City Center in the aftermath of the devastating destruction that took place on Monday night.

According to a Tweet on the San Diego Union Tribune’s Twitter account, the California National Guard public affairs officer originally told the newspaper’s reporter Alex Riggins that the National Guard had not been requested to deploy to La Mesa, but later called back to apologize that he had been incorrect in his statement.


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LA MESA EXTENDS CURFEW FOR NEXT FIVE NIGHTS, SANTEE AND EL CAJON HAVE CURFEWS TONIGHT

By Miriam Raftery

June 3, 2020 (La Mesa) – Following rioting, looting and fires on Saturday in La Mesa and continued civil unrest across our region, the City of La Mesa has announced an extension of curfews each night from June 3 through June 8 from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

El Cajon and Santee have also extended curfews through tomorrow morning.

Below is each city’s announcement, since hours and details vary:


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GUARD AT ILLEGAL POT SHOP KILLED IN SPRING VALLEY

By Miriam Raftery
 
June 3, 2020 (Spring Valley) – A man who reportedly worked as a security guard at an illegal marijuana dispensary was shot and killed last night in Spring Valley.

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ATTORNEY CALLS FOR “JUSTICE” FOR GRANDMOTHER SHOT IN FOREHEAD WITH PROJECTILE DURING PROTEST AT LA MESA POLICE STATION

Warning:  contains graphic image
 
By Miriam Raftery, Rebecca Jefferis Williamson and Henri Migala
 
View ECM video of press conference: blob:https://www.facebook.com/e539b59a-58f0-45aa-b5ba-a657a7a608eb
 
June 2, 2020 (La Mesa) – Leslie Furcron, 59, a La Mesa resident and grandmother shot in the forehead with a projectile Saturday night during the George Floyd protest at La Mesa Police headquarters, is now in a medically induced coma and may lose an eye, according to her attorney, Dante T. Pride.  

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SAN DIEGO POLICE AND SHERIFF TO END USE OF CONTROVERSIAL CAROTID CHOKEHOLD

Update: 6/3/20 San Diego County Sheriffs Department joins a number of local law enforcement agencies to ban the carotid chokehold

Update: 6/5/20 La Mesa Police also announced a halt to carotid restraints.

By Miriam Raftery

June 2, 2020 (San Diego) – In the wake of protests over excessive police use of force that have rocked the nation in recent days, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit (photo, left by Ron Logan) announced yesterday that his department will stop the use of the carotid restraints procedure. 


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AFTERMATH OF LA MESA PROTESTS AND RIOT LEAVES RESIDENTS AND PROTESTERS WONDERING WHO IS TO BLAME

Update: La Mesa curfew extended 7pm 6/2 until 5:30am 6/3
 
By Briana Gomez
 
ECM Editor Miriam Raftery contributed to this report
 
June 2, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The day after the fiery riot following a La Mesa protest left the city in shambles, many citizens were suspicious about who really incited the rioting, looting and arson.

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CURFEWS IMPOSED AGAIN TONIGHT; ACLU RAISES CONCERNS

 

By Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze

Photo by Henri Migala: Police in riot gear Saturday night in La Mesa

June 1, 2020 (San Diego) – Following civil unrest across the region, all East County cities and some unincorporated county areas are under curfew orders tonight. Curfew orders are as follows:

La Mesa: 7 p.m. tonight to 7 a.m. tomorrow

El Cajon 7 p.m. tonight to 5:30 a.m. tomorrow

Lemon Grove 7 p.m. tonight to 6 a.m. tomorrow

Santee 8 p.m. tonight to 6 a.m. tomorrow

Lakeside and Spring Valley:  8 p.m. tonight to 5:30 a.m. tomorrow


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NIGHT OF TERROR IN LA MESA

 

Protest dissolves into chaos as rioters burn down Chase and Union banks, loot retail stores and attack La Mesa Police headquarters

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor; Miriam Raftery and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson also contributed to this report

Photo, left: screenshot via ECM news partner NBC 7 shows Chase and Union Banks in flames at the heart of La Mesa's downtown village

May 31, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The cozy bedroom community of La Mesa, long likened to the fictious Mayberry RFD town of TV fame, lost its innocence on Saturday night when rioters  overran the city. Multiple arson fires and widespread looting swiftly overwhelmed local police and firefighters after protests over police violence earlier in the day. Mutual aid proved inadequate, leaving La Mesa without adequate resources to defend the city.


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SILENT PROTEST HELD AT EL CAJON HOME OF LMPD OFFICER IN CONTROVERSIAL STOP

Story and photos by Kendra Sitton

May 30, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Around 100 protesters silently walked through an El Cajon neighborhood where organizers said La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages lives. The group conducted a “Power Walk” this evening to let the officer know he is not invisible, according to organizer Covu.

East County Magazine could not independently verify that Dages lives at the residence.


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PROTEST AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE TURNS FIERY IN LA MESA

Update May 31, 2020: 1:15 a.m.  A curfew has been issued starting at 1:30 a.m. by the City Manager.  Shortly before midnight, Union Bank and Chase Bank in downtown La Mesa were burned. The Randall Lamb architectural firm is also on fire. More stores have been looted, including Walmart and Target at Grossmont Center and shops in the La Mesa Springs shopping center.

Emergency vehicles in flames; protesters tear gassed after armored vehicle hit with rocks and bottles

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Briana Gomez, Miriam Raftery and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson also contributed to this story

Photo, left by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson: Vehicle burning in La Mesa

Photo, right by Brianna Gomez:  Protestor outside La Mesa Police station

May 30, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Multiple vehicles at La Mesa's Civic Center are in flames tonight, with looting of businesses across the downtown area.The chaos comes after several thousand  mostly peaceful demonstrators converged outside the La Mesa Police Department headquarters this afternoon to protest the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The protesters also demonstrated over an incident earlier this week in La Mesa when a man was detained near the Grossmont Transit Center.

In that incident, suspect Amaurie Johnson was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. Video on social media shows the Amaurie and the officer arguing when the officer pushes Johnson into a seated position. The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The city has also announced plans for an independent investigation. 

The protest  later resulted in confrontations that resulted in tear-gassing of some protesters and declaration of an unlawful assembly. 


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PREDATOR POULSOM TO BE RELEASED JUNE 5 IN EAST COUNTY

East County News Service
 
May 30, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Members of the Sheriff’s SAFE Task Force went door to door on Wednesday in Jacumba Hot Springs and Boulevard to inform the community that Michael Poulsom is slated to be released June 5 and move to 45612 Old Highway 80 in Jacumba Hot Springs. Poulsom is registered as a sexually violent predator after felony convictions for lews and lascivious acts against girls under age 14.
 
He served time in prison from 1985 to 1995 and was later sent to Coalinga State Hospital, which approved him for release over the objections of Supervisor Dianne Jacob and community members.

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PROTESTERS CALL ON MAYOR FAULCONER TO BAN CHOKEHOLDS BY POLICE

Story and photos by Briana Gomez

The Racial Justice Coalition, in collaboration with the #icantbreathecampaign led a peaceful motorcade protest with many other organizations including the Black Panthers to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s home Saturday morning. The caravan followed the police brutality incident in Minnesota caught on video, in which George Floyd, an African-American man, was killed by a white officer who applied a controversial chokehold for over eight minutes, despite Floyd pleading “I can’t breathe.” The officer has been charged with murder. Three other officers present have been fired,  but have thus far not been charged.  

“This event is in response to the event in Minneapolis with George Floyd, but not only that. We’ve been fighting the neck restraint in San Diego since 2017,” Yusef Miller, one of the event organizers and a community activist, told ECM.

There have been numerous incidents of police choking people in San Diego and Orange County.


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REV. SHANE HARRIS BRINGS SUPPORT TO FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD IN MINNEAPOLIS AND FIGHTS FOR REFORMS TO HALT POLICE KILLINGS

“The arrest of George Floyd should not have been a death sentence. What you saw when you looked at the video of the killing was a policeman who was the judge, the jury, and the executioner.” – Rev. Shane Harris, People’s Alliance for Justice, in an exclusive interview with ECM

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of Rev. Shane Harris, shown on Hennepin Bridge in Minneapolis

May 30, 2020 (San Diego) -- The brutal killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis has sparked protests and civil unrest nationwide. The Washington Post has compiled video from multiple sources, documenting that after a store clerk alleged Floyd used counterfeit payment at a store, Officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed Floyd and later knelt on his neck for over eight minutes, ignoring gasps of “I can’t breathe!” Three other officers failed to intervene.

Four nights of protests  in Minnesota ensued, including rioting and burning a police station.  Minnesota’s Governor has called in the National Guard, declaring that most protesters are outside agitators. Officer Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter; all four officers were fired. But many believe more must be done for justice to be served.

Reverend Shane Harris, a national civil rights leader and founder of the People’s Alliance for Justice (PAJ) based in San Diego, flew to Minneapolis on Friday and provided an exclusive phone interview to ECM on Friday night.


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CALLS FOR PEACE--BUT MOSTLY JUSTICE--AS MINNEAPOLIS ERUPTS IN ANGER OVER POLICE KILLING OF GEORGE FLOYD

"We share these painful emotions and demand justice, but we also urge everyone who wishes to raise their voice to engage in peaceful protests and observe social distancing," Floyd's family and attorney said in a statement.

Photo:  People look on as a construction site burns in a large fire near the Third Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams under a Creative Commons license

May 28, 2020 (Minneapolis) - Protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted across Minneapolis Wednesday night as thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets and demanded that the officers responsible be arrested and charged with murder.


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DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIMS' ADVOCATES SEE RISE IN FIRST-TIME COMPLAINTS DURING PANDEMIC

By Kendra Sitton

 

“The quarantine has created a lot of problems…A safety plan is no longer available [for some victims].” – Dilkhwaz Ahmed, License to Freedom

 

May 26, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) — After weeks of stay-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, two local organizations supporting victims of domestic abuse are seeing a sharp rise in people seeking services for the first time. 


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SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE KILLS JONES' PORCH PIRACY SOLUTION

"During the COVID-19 crisis, vulnerable individuals unable to leave their home rely on package delivery for essential items such as medication and food"
 
East County News Service
 
Photo:  Creative Commons by SA-NC
 
May 20, 2020 (Sacramento) - Today, the Senate Public Safety Committee voted down State Senator Brian Jones' (R-Santee) Senate Bill 979, a measure to increase the penalties on persons who steal packages from the porch or entryway of someone's home.

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USBP AGENTS SEIZE OVER 100 LBS. OF METH, ARREST WOMAN

Source:  U.S. Customs and Border Protection

May 13, 2020 (Pine Valley) -  Border Patrol agents at the Interstate 8 checkpoint arrested a woman Saturday morning with more than 103 pounds of crystal methamphetamine in the bed of her truck.


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SUSPECT CHARGED WITH MURDER IN LAKESIDE STABBING

By Miriam Raftery

May 10, 2020 (Lakeside) – Julia Gonzalez, 23, has been arrested and charged with murder of a man stabbed Friday shortly after midnight following a fight with neighbors at 8200 Jema Way in Lakeside, says Lt. Thomas Seiver with the Sheriff’s department.

Sheriff deputies were called to the scene and Lakeside Fire Department personnel treated the injured man. He was transported to a hospital but did not survive.


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DEPUTIES SAVE OCCUPANT FROM POSSIBLE ARSON FIRE IN LAKESIDE

By Miriam Raftery
 
May 8, 2020 (Lakeside)—Sheriff deputies from the Lakeside substation responded to a fire in the 1100 block of Oro Street yesterday morning shortly before 3 a.m.  After learning that an occupant was still inside the residents and was not responding to calls, deputies entered the home and dragged the occupant to safety.
 
The victim was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, says Sgt. David Chandroo.

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EL CAJON POLICE SEEK HELP TO FIND VANDAL AT CHURCH AND CAR DEALER: DAMAGE DELAYED DELIVERY OF PROTECTIVE GEAR TO HOSPITAL WORKERS

East County News Service 

Photos: Surveillance video

 

May 4, 2020 (El Cajon) -  El Cajon Police seek public help to find a vandal who damaged a church and car dealership, also breaking the windshield of a truck set to delivery donations of personal protective equipment to hospital workers, says Officer Sue Stoller.


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BEACH SHUT-DOWN PROTESTERS ARRESTED

By Miriam Raftery
 
April 25, 2020 (Encinitas) – The San Diego Sheriff arrested three protesters today for violating county and state orders against public gatherings during the COVID-19 emergency. The action follows several similar rallies around the county.
 
The protest at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas drew 75-100 demonstrators who called for beaches to be opened. 
 
According to Lt. Amber Baggs, “Several protestors walked onto the beach and sat as deputies began speaking to them regarding the County Public Health Order. The people were given multiple opportunities to comply with the state and county orders. Three attendees refused and were arrested.”

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EL CAJON POLICE SEEK HELP IN HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION

East County News Service

Photo: Victim Tony Montantes

April 21, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The El Cajon Police Department is asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the suspect(s) responsible for the murder of 41-year-old Tony Montantes. On March 16th at approximately 9:55 p.m., Tony Montantes was standing on the sidewalk in the area of E. Main St. and S. First St. in El Cajon when an unknown suspect fired several gunshots at him. As a result, Montantes was struck multiple times. Despite life saving measures by El Cajon Police officers, paramedics and hospital staff, Montantes was pronounced dead. The suspect(s) were last seen fleeing the area in a vehicle.


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SAN DIEGO SHERIFF AND POLICE WARN PROTEST ORGANIZERS AND DEMONSTRATORS CAN BE ARRESTED FOR VIOLATING COVID-19 BANS ON GATHERINGS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of Times of San Diego

April 20, 2020 (San Diego) – Over the weekend, hundreds of people held protests locally to call for reopening of parks, beaches and businesses shut down due to county and state health orders to prevent spread of COVID-19.   The protesters gathered in defiance of a county ban on all gatherings and failed even to provide social distancing or wear mask, putting themselves and anyone they come in contact with at risk of catching the highly contagious virus.

Today, the San Diego Sheriff and San Diego Police Department issued a statement which warns, “Although the protests were allowed to take place, we must not forget the public health orders were put in place to protect our communities from the spread of COVID-19. While no citations were issued at the protests, that does not mean prosecution will not be sought, especially to the organizers of these events.”


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