Crime Beat

LA MESA GIRDS FOR “UNITY PROTEST AND RIDE” SUNDAY, JUNE 14

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police Department has sent an alert out to inform the public of a protest planned tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the La Mesa Police Department.  The LMPD advisory indicates the protest is expected to be peaceful and that protesters free speech rights will be respected, but that mutual aid from law enforcement agencies across the county are prepared to respond to protect La Mesa if that situation changes.

According to a flyer posted on social media sites, the “Unity Protest” will welcome motorcyclists from clubs across the region in a “Unity Ride” starting in San Diego and ending at the LMPD station, where two weeks ago a protest against police violence that began peacefully ended in assaults tageting police and a barrage of nonlethal weapons fired at protesters, followed by a rampage of looting, vandalism, and the burning of buildings and vehicles.

MORE ARRESTS MADE FOR CRIMES DURING RIOTS IN LA MESA

 

Scroll down for images of more crimes commited during the May 31 La Mesa riot, including arsonists not yet apprehended

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: This image of looters circulated widely on social media.

June 12, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police yesterday announced new arrests related to the May 30 riot in La Mesa, the latest for looting stores at Grossmont Center and the La Mesa Springs shopping center. Though the riots occurred in the aftermath of a Black Lives Matter protest over police use of force, those arrested so far include white, Hispanic and black suspects.

LA MESA COUNCIL VOTES FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF PROTEST AND RIOT RESPONSES; HEARS HEATED COMMENTS FROM PUBLIC

By Briana Gomez

Photo by Paul Kruze: Officers guarding City Hall, where the City Clerk's office was set afire during the riot  on May 30

The City of La Mesa held a heated livestream city council meeting Tuesday with council members socially distanced via zoom,  the first public meeting since the May 30 riots that followed protests for black lives.

The Council unanimously voted to have an outside investigator review police, fire department and other city agencies’ actions during the protest and rioting that ended with multiple businesses looted, vehicles burned, two banks and a historic building burned down.  

Council members reviewed their agenda before public comments, most of which criticized the La Mesa Police Department for its recent treatment of the black community, perceived mismanagement of what began as a peaceful protest, and for not preventing the city from burning down during riots that ensued.

LA MESA POLICE SHOT LESLIE FURCRON FOR CRYING "MURDERERS," LAWYER SAYS

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

Photo:  Leslie Furcron, a 59-year-old grandmother who was injured during a protest in front of the La Mesa Police Department, thanked her hospital caregivers but said she is still very weak and will need nursing care. Photo by Chris Stone

June 11, 2020 (La Mesa) - Leslie Furcron spoke for three minutes outside La Mesa City Hall on Wednesday — her first public remarks since being shot in the face during a La Mesa police station protest. But her lawyer said she was wounded for being heard saying “Murderers.”

EXCLUSIVE: ECM INTERVIEWS LA MESA MAYOR AND POLICE CHIEF ON PROTEST PREPARATIONS AND RIOT RESPONSES

 

By Miriam Raftery

Videography by Paul Kruze

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – Hours after the city of La Mesa released a timeline and incident narrative on the May 30-31 protest over police violence and the riot that ensued, ECM editor Miriam Raftery and contributing editor Paul Kruze conducted exclusive interviews with Mayor Mark Arapostathis and La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez yesterday at the La Mesa community center, seeking answers to questions on protest preparations and riot responses.

CITY UNDER SIEGE: LA MESA RELEASES TIMELINE AND NARRATIVE ON NIGHT OF RIOT, VIOLENCE AND ARSON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left by Henri Migala:  Officers outside LMPD station vandalized with graffiti by late afternoon, shortly before rioting began.

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – The city of La Mesa has released a timeline and incident narrative of the protest and subsequent riot in La Mesa May 30-31, which reveal chilling details of an increasingly violent siege waged against police and sheriff officers as well as City Hall and businesses across the city.  Despite reinforcements pre-staged, rioting swiftly grew out of control, starting from early reports of violence starting at 4 p.m. that later escalated into hurling of bottle bombs (Molotov cocktails) at police, breaking windows on police vehicles with officers inside and attacking an armored bearcat.  Looting commenced in multiple locatoins, rocks and bottles were hurled at officers, as rioters throughout the long night and early morning hours of mayhem ignited multiple vehicles, burned down two banks and a historic building,and ignited nuermous other locations.

Police defended themselves with non-lethal weapons including tear gas, pepperballs and beanbags, striking at least two people in the head. Multiple officers were also reported injured. It remains to be seen whether the looting and burning were done by protesters or outside groups that took advantage of what began as a peaceful protest and march against police violence earlier in the day, or perhaps a combination of both.

DEBATE RAGES ONLINE OVER YELLOW-VESTED LA MESA CIVIL DEFENSE GROUP

 

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

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) - Friday afternoon, several dozen people met at a boarded-up corner on La Mesa Boulevard to discuss how they might help a fledgling La Mesa CIvil Defense group. 

MAN CHARGED WITH HAVING MOLOTOV COCKTAIL EXPLOSIVES DURING RIOT IN LA MESA

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Zachary Karas, arrested for possession of incendiary devices

Photo, right by Paul Kruze: Vons truck burning approximately one block from where Karas was arrested

June 9, 2020 (La Mesa) – The U.S. Attorneys Office has charged Zachary Alexander Karas, 28, of San Diego for possessing incendiary devices including Molotov cocktail explosive devices and fireworks In La Mesa during riots that began the night of May 30th.  Throughout that night and early in the building, multiple buildings and vehicles were set afire.

According to the complaint filed by U.S Assistant Attorney Andrew Haden, Karas and his girlfriend, Kali Braj Jonkuet, were sitting on the pavent at the corner of Allison Ave. and Spring St. in front of the trolley tracks. Officers ordered the crowd to disperse for an unlawful assembly and arrested Karas after he failed to leave. After his arrest, officers discovered that Karas possessed Molotov cocktails --two glass bottles with wicks that contained gasoline. Molotov cocktails are also known as bottle bombs or poor man’s grenades. Karas also had fireworks in his possession.

A special agent with the ATF inspected the Molotov cocktails and found them to be functioning incendiary devices.

$10,000 REWARD OFFERED FOR INFO ON THEFTS FROM GUN SHOP DURING RIOTS IN LA MESA

By Miriam Raftery
 
June 9, 2020 (La Mesa) – A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of a man who broke into Alex Imports Shop at 7389 University Ave. in La Mesa and stole nine long guns on May 30 around 11 p.m. The burglary occurred during the rioting and looting following protests last Saturday night over racial injustice and police brutality.

THOUSANDS MARCH FOR JUSTICE IN SANTEE ON SUNDAY

By Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze

Photos, left and right, by Ryan Michael Darsey

Updated June 13, 2020 with additional quotes and photos.

June 8, 2020 (Santee) – Thousands of protesters held two peaceful marches and rallies Sunday in Santee to call for an end to racism and police violence.  The first kicked off near West Hills Park and proceeded to Santee Lakes. The second convened at the YMCA and marched to the Santee Sheriff’s station on Cuyamaca Street.

The first was organized by Santee residents Tasha Cassidy and Alana Ethridge, who told Patch.com that they wanted to promote “unity and diversity” to overcome “a stigma of Santee being racist.”

Far more marchers convened at the second march which began at the YMCA and ended outside the Sheriff’s station at Cuyamaca Street and Mission Gorge. Deputies stood guard, allowing marchers to proceed saetly down the nomrally busy street throught the shopping district. Many carried placards eading "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe" and other slogans.

At the Sheriff's station, speakers included 83-year-old Richard Lawrence, who marched in Selma, Alabama in 1965 with  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

LA MESA DELAYS TIMELINE ON WEEKEND PROTESTS, VANDALISM TILL NEXT WEEK

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

Photo:  La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said Wednesday: “We were totally overwhelmed by the situation. We were not prepared for a peaceful protest to erupt into the level of civil unrest we witnessed as the evening fell.” Photo by Chris Stone

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) - Contrary to a recent pledge, La Mesa said Friday that a timeline of events related to last weekend’s protests and vandalism won’t be released until early next week.

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.

CONFRONTATIONS HEIGHTEN RACIAL TENSIONS IN SANTEE

 

Threats on social media prompt preparations for more potential clashes after violent confrontations earlier this week documented by ECM



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

 

June 5, 2020 (Santee) – Businesses in Santee including some major retailers and Wells Fargo Bank are boarded up or closed this afternoon, with a major law enforcement contingent in place after a post on social media called on marchers to “F*ck Klantee” tonight. Other posts suggest activist events may be planned over this weekend.

The posts follow several nights of conflicts and physical altercations between a group of white men who shouted racial taunts and  reportedly physically harmed several young people who claimed they were Black Lives Matter protesters, though the white men claimed they were detaining suspected looters.

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:

WITNESS TO CHAOS

 

 

Story and photos by Jake Rose, photographer

June 5, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Afternoon protests against police violence in La Mesa on Saturday afternoon started off entirely peaceful. After the march on May 30, 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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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:

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.

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.  

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. 

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.

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

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 overnight 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 enough resources to defend the city.

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.

PROTEST AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE TURNS FIERY IN LA MESA

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

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 that some contend was racial profiling.

Photo, right, by Paul Kruze: Protesters during earlier peaceful march

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, tear-gassing of some protesters and declaration of an unlawful assembly. 

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.

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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