Crime Beat

BIDEN AND TRUMP VISIT KENOSHA AFTER SHOOTINGS PROMPT NEW WAVE OF PROTESTS

By Miriam Raftery
All photos by Les Brown
Photo (left): Jacob Blake Sr., August 29
 
September 3, 2020 (Kenosha, WI) – Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden made visits this week to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where yet another controversial police shooting of a Black man and later, the shooting deaths of two protesters by an armed white teenager now facing first degree homicide, have fueled further civil unrest.
 
On August 23, 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer. The shooting, which occurred in front of Blake’s young children, has left him paralyzed. According to the police officers’ union, officers were called out due to a domestic violence dispute involving Blake, who resisted arrest and was shot at point-blank range as he pulled open the door to enter a vehicle. Although police have said they believed Blake had a knife in the vehicle, Blake’s family says he was unarmed.

FLOWERS FROM GUN OWNERS PAC POSTPONED DINNER DONATED TO EAST COUNTY FIRST RESPONDERS

East County News Service

Aug. 31, 2020 (Santee) – The San Diego County Gun Owners PAC (SDCGO), a political action committee promoting Second Amendment rights in San Diego County, was ready with 90 fresh-flower arrangements, including 65 centerpieces and 25 wrapped bouquets, for its Second Amendment Celebration Dinner, an annual fundraiser benefiting Second Amendment advocacy.

CAPTAIN MATT NICHOLASS NAMED INTERIM ACTING CHIEF OF LA MESA POLICE: CITY LAUNCHES NATIONWIDE SEARCH FOR ITS NEXT CHIEF

East County News Service

Photo: Captain Matt Nicholass, tomorrow's Interim Chief of Police (left), and soon to be former Chief of Police Walt Vasquez (right). Chopper the Biker Dog, law enforcement mascott wishes Chief Vasquez "all the very best on his retirement during his 'final walk-out."  Photo courtesy of Facebook, Chopper the Biker Dog

August 27, 2020 (La Mesa) - The City of La Mesa plans to hire an executive recruiting firm to conduct a nationwide search for its next Chief of Police, according to a  new release earlier today from the City of La Mesa.

There will be a community input component to the selection process. The process is expected to take several months to complete. Once the recruiting firm is hired additional details will be released.

Captain Matt Nicholass will assume the role of Acting Chief of Police tomorrow, August 28, 2020.

VICTIM IDENTIFIED, SUSPECT CAPTURED IN MAIN STREET KILLING

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left by Della Elliott:  A shrine to commemorate 21-year-old shooting victim Fabian Cerda has been created by community members at the site where he was fatally shot. 

May 24, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police today announced the arrest of George Louis Garcia, 42, following a tense standoff in La Mesa with police from multiple law enforcement agencies. Garcia is charged in the shooting death of Fabian Esteban Cerda, 21, on August 18 in El Cajon.

According to Lt. K. MacArthur with El Cajon Police, Cerda became involved in an argument with Garcia, the former boyfriend of Cerda’s mother around 1:30 a.m. on August 18 in front of 1548 East Main Street in El Cajon. “He was shot several times and later died as a result of the shooting,” Lt. MacArthur says. The victim succumbed to his injuries in an ambulance en route to a hospital.  

MAN SHOT, KILLED IN EL CAJON

East County News Service
 
Photo by Della Elliott:Community members have set up a memorial tribute to the victim, whose identity has not yet been released
 
August 19, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police officers dispatched after a 911 caller reported gunshots near 1549 East Main Street found a man suffering from several gunshot wounds around 1:30 a.m yesterday. The victim was transported by ambulance to a hospital, but died before arrival, says Lt. K. MacArthur.
 
The identity of the victim, who is from San Diego, will be released by the County Medical Examiner after family is notified. 

SHOTS FIRED AT VEHICLE ON HIGHWAY 94 NEAR COLLEGE AVE.

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 19, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – Around 3:30 this morning, the driver of a Cadillac was shot by someone in a dark sedan that followed him for several miles, then pulled up next to the driver’s side, firing through the window. The incident occurred on State Route 94 east, just west of the College Avenue exit.

SIX MEN DETAINED AFTER SHOOTOUT IN LA MESA; THREE “ARMED AND DANGEROUS” SUSPECTS IN DARK SUV REMAIN AT LARGE

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 19, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police Department seeks witnesses to shootings at a strip mall last night in the 7400 block of El Cajon Blvd, La Mesa. Despite multiple shots fired at a business and vehicle, there are no known injuries.  

LEMON GROVE TEEN, MISSING SINCE JULY 31, LAST SEEN GETTING INTO CAR WITH MAN

By Miriam Raftery

August 18, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – The Sheriff seeks public help to locate Alonna Wintland. The 15-year-old was last seen leaving her home in the 8000 block of Lemon Grove Way and getting into the car of an unknown man on July 31.

She has blonde/purple hair, blue eyes, stands 5 ft. 2 inches tall and weighs around 235 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white shirt, beige shorts and sandals.

She has a history of running away, but left without her cell phone or debit card.

PROSECUTION SOUGHT AGAINST DRIVER WHO INJURED MOTORCYCLIST IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

August 16, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police have recommended that the District Attorney prosecute the driver of a Camry that struck and seriously injured a motorcyclist on Jamacha Blvd. May 13tth around 10:13 a.m.

The motorcyclist was traveling south on Jamacha approaching Washington when a silver Toyota Camry turned left in front of the motorcyclist, violating his right of way and causing a collision, says Lt. Will Guerin with the El Cajon Police Dept. 

The motorcyclist, 65, was treated on scene by Heartland Fire Dept. paramedics and transported to a hospital, where he remains hospitalized with major injuries.

TUESDAY PROTEST IN LA MESA STAYS PEACEFUL; MAN BRIEFLY DETAINED AFTER DISPLAYING PEPPER SPRAY AT PROTESTERS

 

By Briana Gomez

Roger Ogden and Tasha Williamson in verbal confrontation

Updated August 16 with additional comments from Ogden.

August 13,  2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa police detained but later released a man with alleged ties to a racist group  during a Black Lives Matter protest on Tuesday, following a vocal confrontation with activist Tasha Williamson.  LMPD led Roger Ogden into the police station in handcuffs for reportedly displaying pepper spray during the altercation. On his blog, Ogden called Williamson a “terrorist” and called her a "liar" at the rally. Williamson denounced Ogden at the rally as a “racist clown.”  Each has denied the others claims of racism and inciting terror.  View video.

Despite verbal barbs, at the August 11 rally and an earlier protest on May 1, protesters remained non-violent. Unlike a major protest May 30 that ended in burning of buildings, rioting and looting, the only arrests at the most recent protests were of individuals accused of harassing protesters, both with ties to white nationalist or racist groups. On May 1st, as ECM reported, Ryan McAdams, who has a history of racial clashes, was arrested for battery and pepper spray possession.

LA MESA POLICE CHIEF VASQUEZ TALKS RETIREMENT AS TOWN HALL EYES MAY 30 RIOT

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego News Association

Photo:  La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez speaks at June press conference. Photo by Chris Stone

August 13, 2020 (La Mesa) - Minutes after a virtual Town Hall began Thursday on La Mesa’s protest and riot events, Police Chief Walt Vasquez announced his retirement from the force after five years “as the city’s top cop.”

REWARD OFFERED FOR INFO ON MURDER OF SECURITY GUARD JUNE 2 AT DISPENSARY IN SPRING VALLEY

East County News Service 

August 12, 2020 (Spring Valley) – A $3,000 reward is being offered by the family of Kenneth Love II for information that leads to the arrest of his killer. The family’s reward is in addition to a $1,000 reward offered by Crime Stoppers. 

COUNTY OFFICIALS WARN OF RISE IN FENTANYL FATALITIES, USE OF COUNTERFEIT DRUGS AMID PANDEMIC

By Miriam Raftery

August 12, 2020 (San Diego) – District Attorney Summer Stephan is warning of an “alarming uptick” in overdose deaths caused by fentanyl.  Stephan says dealers are lacing various illegal drugs with fentanyl in what she calls “a recipe for death.”

At least 119 deaths so far this year are confirmed to be related to fentanyl in San Diego County, with another 84 deaths in which the drug is suspected to be a factor.  Isolation during the pandemic is believed to be a key factor contributing to the increase in addiction and fatalities.

According to a joint statement issued by state and federal prosecutors, law enforcement and county health officials, the number of deaths in 2020 is expected to exceed last year’s total of 152. 

DEATH UNDER INVESTIGATION IN UNINCORPORATED LA MESA

East County News Service

August 12, 2020 (La Mesa) – In response to a call requesting a welfare check on a resident in the 4400 block of Carmen Drive in unincorporated La Mesa, Chula Vista Police officers found the body of a man shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday.  The Sheriff’s homicide unit is investigating.

The street was temporarily blocked off for an investigation overnight.

Lt. Thomas Seiver with the Sheriff’s homicide unit asks that anyone with information on this incident call (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

BANK ROBBER FOILED IN LEMON GROVE: FBI SEEKS TIPS

East County News Service

August 11, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – Yesterday at 1:34 p.m., a woman presented a note demanding money to the teller at Wells Fargo Bank, 7080 Broadway in Lemon Grove. The teller did not comply, so the would-be robber left on foot without any cash, says FBI special agent Davene Butler.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeks public help to identify the woman, who is described as black, thin, and approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall. She wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark  pants, white gloves, sunglasses, and a face mask.

The robber is described as a black female, thin build, standing approximately 5’8” wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. The robber covered her face and head with the hooded sweatshirt, face mask, and sunglasses. In addition, the woman wore white gloves.

LMPD OFFICER IN TROLLEY STOP INCIDENT LEAVES FORCE: QUESTONS OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY REMAIN

By Miriam Raftery

Screenshot from video via Instagram: Officer Matt Dages and Amaurie Johnson in controversial stop

August 8, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police officer involved in the controversial stop of a  young Black man near the Grossmont trolley stop on May 28, is “not employed by the City of La Mesa in any capacity,” the city announced yesterday.

The terse statement provided no details on whether Officer Matt Dages resigned or was terminated, nor whether any wrongdoing was found in an investigation. He was placed on administrative leave pending an external investigation, the results of which have not been made public.

An assault charge against Amaurie Johnson, 23, was dropped after body camera footage failed to substantiate Officer  Dages' version of the incident.

The announcement of Dages' departure has drawn reactions ranging from relief to calls for greater accountability and transparency.

FENTANYL DEALER SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS IN PRISON FOR DEATH OF RAMONA WOMAN

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo: 2 milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal dose for most people (via the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency)
 
August 6, 2020 (Ramona) – Over 31,000 Americans died in 2018 of overdoses of synthetic opioids including fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin o morphine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports. The victims include a 33-year-old Ramona woman who died July 9, 2018 after buying illegal fentanyl from Michael Steen, 27. 
 
Yesterday in federal court, Judge Gonzalo Curiel sentenced Steen to 12 years in prison after he pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute over 500 grams of Fentanyl—including the deadly dose that killed the Ramona woman.
 

COUNTY CHARGES RAMONA FITNESS CENTER OWNER FOR DEFYING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS

By East County News Service

File photo of treadmills via Bing

August 3, 2020 (Ramona) – The owner of the Ramona Fitness Center could face up to 30 months in jail or a $5,000 fine for allegedly staying open in violating of state and county public health orders.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday by the San Diego County District Attorney, Peter San Nicolas committed the violations on June 2, 4 and 5 as well as on July 15 and 17.  Each violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

All gyms were ordered closed in mid-March. In mid-June, they were briefly allowed to reopen, then shut down again in mid-July for indoor activities.

MAN ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF PROTESTERS IN LA MESA; ECM PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO ATTACKED

View video of first attack on ECM photographer 

View video of second attack on ECM photographer

 

Help us identify the attackers. If you recognize either of these assailants, please contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

 

Story and photos by Henri Migala

 

August 3, 2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa was once again the setting of a demonstration in support of racial justice and against police brutality on Saturday, August 1. Ironically, both protesters and counter-protesters aggressively sought to prevent media coverage by multiple outlets, raising the question of why many on both sides wanted to demonstrate their views without press coverage. 

LA MESA POLICE ISSUE WARNING ABOUT PROTEST SATURDAY, CITY BANS OBJECTS THAT CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS IN AREA AROUND PUBLIC BUILDINGS

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police Department has issued a press release warning of a protest planned Saturday, August 1 starting at 3:30 p.m. by organizers who have not responded to inquiries from LMPD. In addition,  City Manager Greg Humora has issued an emergency order banning many weapons and objects that may be used as riot tools in a restricted area around civic buildings from noon tomorrow through 5:30  a.m. Sunday. Banned items including sticks on protest signs, bats, guns, knives, explosives, glass bottles, spray paint, and many more objects.

A flyer circulated online touting the protest over police use of force issues indicated that “civil disobedience” was planned and urged participants not to bring children, indicating the event is for age 18 and up. The flyer has prompted uneasiness among downtown merchants, some of whom have boarded up storefronts in anticipation of potential civil unrest once again.

AMAURIE JOHNSON SUES CITY OF LA MESA OVER ALLEGED POLICE MISCONDUCT

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Kendra Sitton

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – Amaurie Johnson, 23, whose controversial arrest near the Grossmont Trolley station sparked protests and accusations of racial profiling, has filed a law suit against the city of La Mesa and arresting officer Matt Dages.

On May 27, La Mesa Police have stated that Johnson, who is Black, was stopped for smoking in public and later arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.  After a May 30-31 protest and civil unrest, police later released footage from multiple body cameras which largely failed to back up the officer’s claims, showing Johnson touch Officer Dages, who is White, for a fleeting moment after Dages had grabbed Johnson by the shirt and Johnson vociferously objected.

LMPD announced that it would not pursue prosecution of Johnson and dropped the charges.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, the officer lacked probable cause for the arrest. (A search of Dages failed to find any smoking materials or illegal substances).  The suit also contends that Johnson was the target of police violence due to his race.

BEWARE OF SCAMMERS POSING AS DEA AGENTS

East County News Service

July 29,2020 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the public to be cautious of telephone calls by scammers posing as DEA employees attempting to defraud and extort victims.

The schemers call the victims, spoofing DEA phone numbers in order to appear legitimate, and threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for supposed violations of federal drug laws or involvement in drug-trafficking activities unless victims pay a “fine” over the phone, via wire transfer, or through a gift card.

The reported scam tactics continually change but often share many of the same characteristics. Callers use fake names and badge numbers or names of well-known DEA officials and may:

SIX ARRESTED IN SWEEP OF ILLEGAL DISPENSARIES

East County News Service

July 29, 2020 (San Diego) – Yesterday morning, Tuesday, deputies and investigators from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, assisted by San Diego and Chula Vista police officers, served search warrants at five illegal marijuana dispensaries in Spring Valley, Lakeside, and Chula Vista. Search warrants were also served at two related residences in Jamul and San Diego, as well as a storage facility in Spring Valley, says Sergeant Zheath Sanchez with the Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators seized more than 1.1 million dollars in cash, as well as more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana, marijuana edibles, concentrated cannabis, suspected Psilocybin mushrooms, and twenty firearms including three semi-automatic rifles.

CYT SHUTS DOWN ALL LOCAL PROGRAMS INDEFINITELY AMID STORM OF SEXUAL ABUSE COMPLAINTS

By Miriam Raftery

July 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – After numerous former students alleged sexual abuse by instructors, Christian Youth Theater posted yesterday on its Facebook page, “As of today, CYT San Diego social media will no longer be active since we will not be holding any programming or reopening until further notice. Please visit our website at www.cytsandiego.org to contact us directly if you have any questions or statements. We are here to listen. We are here to learn. We love and support our ENTIRE CYT family.”

LA MESA POLICE RELEASE VIDEOS OF LESLIE FURCRON INCIDENT, IDENTIFY OFFICER INVOLVED

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 23, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police today identified the officer who fired a beanbag that struck protester Leslie Furcron on the forehead during a chaotic protest outside the LMPD station on May 30, 2020, seriously injuring the Lemon Grove grandmother. Police also release two body camera videos of the incident, as well as a critical incident video and additional information.

PROTEST PLANNED AT LA MESA POLICE STATION ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 1

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 24, 2020 (La Mesa) – Another  protest against the La Mesa  Police Department  has been announced  for Saturday, August 1, at 3:30 p.m. outside the La Mesa Police Department. The flyer indicates that "civil disobedience" is planned and indicates this event is for adults only. The action comes amid nationwide protests calling for police accountability and racial justice.

The protest comes two months after a May 30 protest over police and racial justice issues dissolved into a riot that ended with police pelted by rocks and bottles, three buildings burned down and dozens of buildings looted. However several protests that remained peaceful have been held since then including a unity rally and Juneteeth rally.

SHERIFF'S DEPUTY, EX-SANTANA BASEBALL STAR ACCUSED OF MOLESTING THREE MINORS

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego News Association

Photo:  Jaylen Fleer, shown pitching for Santana High School in a March 2011 game against Helix Charter High School, also played football for the Sultans. Photo by Chris Stone

July 23, 2020 (Santee) - A San Diego County sheriff's deputy who once starred for Santana High School in baseball and football was behind bars Thursday on suspicion of a series of child molestation charges in Chula Vista.

CHRISTIAN YOUTH THEATER IN SPOTLIGHT FOR ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSE OF STUDENTS AND RACIAL BIAS

By Miriam Raftery

File photo, left: CYT’s 2014 performance of Les Miserables on Mt. Helix

July 23, 2020 (El Cajon) – Christian Youth Theater (CYT) a national junior theater organization based in El Cajon, is now in the spotlight over allegations by former students of sexual abuse and racism dating back decades. 

Pages