By Mark Gutglueck
Seven Enamorados and the political clique’s namesake founder were swept up in a predawn raid Thursday morning in a precisely choreographed operation by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department that was staged in five Southern California cities, including across the county line to include two locations in Los Angeles.
The arrests, the wealth of information obtained in a ten-week-long investigation involving at least seven police agencies leading up to them and the penetration of the Enamorados by informants or undercover operatives sets up what promises to be a far-reaching clash of public perception with regard to the organization and whether it represents, as law enforcement maintains, a criminal enterprise or if the description of those involved as social and political activists is more apt.
The central figure in the Enamorados as well as the bevy of arrests effectuated on December 14 is Edin Alex Enamorado. An admitted former “gangbanger” and convicted felon originally from Cudahy, the now-36-year-old Enamorado says that several years ago he recognized the error of his earlier choices and has now resolved to eradicate the social ills of racism and poverty that are the tools of the oppressors who demean, exploit and ultimately criminalize entire segments of society. He promotes himself, and his supporters celebrate him, as the champion of the underdog, which in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area and Southern California in which he plies the lion’s share of his activism, primarily means poor Latinos and African Americans, but most particularly the immigrant community, composed of largely unskilled individuals few of whom speak English and are struggling economically to find a place in the region’s workforce. He and his associates in the past have advocated upon the behalf of Mexicanos or what is referred to as “La Raza” or simply “raza,” meaning Hispanics.
Most recently, Enamorado and, by extension, his legion of Enamorados have taken up the cause of street vendors, sometimes referred to as sidewalk vendors, meaning those with pushcarts, tables, makeshift platforms, more elaborate temporary venues, rolling kitchens or vehicles which sell items or merchandise, often involving food.
That issue is a complicated and nuanced one.
In some jurisdictions there are only marginal regulations and little if any enforcement. In others, while regulations are somewhat more exacting, enforcement is virtually nonexistent. In still others, what enforcement there is is hit-and-miss and inconsistent. In some larger jurisdictions, such as certain unincorporated county areas, a laissez faire attitude exists in some areas and a stricter attitude prevails in others. In certain places, such as some cities and particularly in their commercial districts where street vendors interfere with or have the potential to interfere with existing well-established businesses, sidewalk vendors and street vendors are not tolerated.
Traditional businesses, ones referred to as brick-and-mortar establishments in reference to the reality that they are located within existing buildings, are hampered by a set of overhead requirements that do not attend transitory businesses such as street vendors or sidewalk vendors. A primary consideration is that a brick and mortar business is saddled, usually, with rent and lease payments to maintain such a physical location, or, more rarely, mortgage payments if the business ownership owns the property. Even in such cases where a business operator has free and clear ownership of the building in which the business is located, the building is yet subject to property tax. Accompanying leasing or ownership of the premises where business is conducted is a need for insurance. Moreover, a stationary business is subject to a host of regulations, fees, taxes, assessments and the like by multiple government agencies and entities, which entail a further financial burden. Being confined to one specific place renders a business into a non-moving target, such that eluding regulations and fees are a near impossibility. While a sidewalk vendor or street vendor can likewise be subject to regulations, fees, taxes and assessments, eluding such burdens is often possible and in a multiplicity of cases a reality. This puts brick and mortar business operators into what many consider to be a disadvantages situation vis-a-vis transitory businesses. A vendor selling commodities in front of a retail store can thus afford to sell products at a price that is nearly half of what the same or similar goods are sold for inside such a market and achieve a profit, outcompeting the competition. Similarly, a street vendor operating from a cart, a mobile kitchen or a food truck, which can easily bypass state and federal minimum wage laws, can sell food items at a price well below what a restaurant, which is monitored closely for what wages it pays its help, must charge to offer a similar menu and break even. Anecdotally, at least, there are numerous restaurants across Southern California over the last several years that have gone out of business at least partially because of the competition from street vendors.
Such subtleties of consideration are not accounted for in the position that the Enamorados have taken on behalf of street vendors. As they see it, immigrants have come to America, in this case California, in search of the American Dream, and they are entitled to make their way in the world, or that part of it that they have come to, in whatever way they can. To them, regulations in the form of health and safety requirements, ordinances, permits, licenses or taxes are, or at least should be, an irrelevancy as far as the street vendors are concerned. The layering of such requirements upon street vendors are, the Enamorados maintain, the work of Europeans who came to North America, exterminated, removed, marginalized or otherwise dominated the indigenous people already in place and then imposed their capitalistic system on the land and anyone who remained upon it. The indigenous people who have survived or made their way back into what is now the United States and Alta California after having been displaced generations ago should now be free to conduct themselves outside that inherently unfair capitalistic paradigm without the interference of the white European racists who now have control of California politically, according to the Enamorados.
What is more, according to the Enamorados, those indigenous people who have been assimilated into the white European culture or those members of La Raza whose ancestors returned to California from Mexico or even further south two, three, four or five generations ago and have now been abstracted into the California establishment either politically or economically or both are “coconuts,” i.e., people who are brown on the outside but white on the inside, ones who have accepted the racist ethos of the white oppressors.
The Enamorados carry out their activism in more than one way. One approach consists of offering what they term “support” and “security” to street vendors as they ply their trade, a presence intended to ward off anyone who would interfere with the vendors. That extends to “protection,” i.e., providing the vendors with what are essentially bodyguards. In addition, they will supply the vendors with chemical agents such as mace or pepper spray that they can use against anyone they deem to be threatening them.
Another is to show up singly or in small numbers or en masse at a public meeting of the civil authority or a given jurisdiction’s decision-making body such as a city council to either protest a past decision or ongoing policy or to lobby against a contemplated new policy or action such as passing an ordinance that would clamp down on street vendors.
Another is a general show of protest in a given area, such as a downtown business district or outside a public building.
The Enamorados frame their activism largely on the model of that of their leader, Edin Enamorado, whose overriding position is that the social and political order and establishment in Southern California is one that is illegitimate, indefensible, racist and inherently discriminatory and hostile toward the Latino population. The only antidote to this injustice, Enamorado and his followers propound, is to abrasively and aggressively assert their rights.
On his own as a social justice crusader, Enamorado often engages in exchanges with the media, during which he holds himself out as an activist earnestly pursuing the goals of ensuring equality, protecting civil rights, standing up for the weak, impoverished and unenfranchised while holding government accountable to the people. During these media encounters, Enamorado expresses himself in measured and articulate terms. His approach in the field, which more often than not is captured in moving sound images by videographers who accompany him, is to portray himself as an avenging angel of justice who will strike down with furious rage upon those who would harm the innocent immigrants whom he is protecting, relying primarily upon physical confrontation. This involved a formula that has as its ingredients equal parts of a presumption of moral superiority, making accusations of racism, profanity, rapid fire questions and assertions without giving his interlocutor an opportunity to respond or otherwise immediately dismissing any response made, browbeating, insults and threats. In such circumstances, the intent is not to achieve an exchange of information or views but rather to relentlessly intimidate, provoke and stage a scene in which he emerges triumphant. Key elements of Enamorado’s approach are being surrounded by a physically intimidating support network, the use of surprise, verbal domination and videography to capture an indelible visual and audio recording of the individual being confronted, which in many, though not all, cases will result in an untoward or intemperate remark or reaction. Routinely, videos of these confrontations are uploaded onto social media platforms Enamorado controls. Some of those depict an individual being confronted or in other cases bystanders to the protests Enamorado’s group has mounted growing impatient at being blocked or hemmed in or harangued and then reacting, whereupon the subject is ganged up upon and physically assaulted by those present. Audible in those videos will be a running commentary from Enamorado, the videographer or one of the participants in the melee offering a justification for the violence that is depicted.
One such incident, which forms the primary basis of the arrests of the eight Enamorados that took place on Thursday, December 14 occurred on September 24 in Victorville. On that day, Enamorado had led a contingent of some 40 Enamarados from Los Angeles County and lower San Bernardino County in a protest relating to the action of a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy on the evening of September 22 after a high school football game between Victor Valley and Big Bear at Ray Moore Stadium. After the conclusion of the game, a brawl broke out in the parking lot outside the stadium. In a video of the incident that subsequently went viral, two deputies can be seen attempting to intervene in the melee. At one point, a girl, subsequently identified as 16-year-old Victor Valley High School Student Faith Jeffers, can be seen involved with one deputy, who appears to have stepped between her and another female combatant. Jeffers can be seen bending down with her hands in the area of that deputy’s service belt. As he reaches down to secure the weapons and devices there, another deputy approaches Jeffers from behind, lifts her and with some degree of force throws her to the pavement, disenabling her, before both deputies then turn their attention to subduing Jeffers’ combatant. Jeffers suffered injuries that required her hospitalization.
In short order, Jeffers and the force used against her became a cause célèbre, one which brought large numbers of protesters to the Victorville Sheriff’s Station on Amargosa Road two days later. Around 40 of the more than 120 protesters who were on hand were Enamorados.
The protest in earnest began late that morning, with participants carrying signs and placards marching around the block of Amargosa, Palmdale Avenue to as far north as the parking lot for the Destiny Christian Center and then back toward Palmdale Road on McArt Road. Shepherding the protesting Enamorados was Edin Enamorado, who was using a bullhorn to exhort the crowd and address motorists who were passing or stationary at the intersection, referring to sheriff’s deputies in general as cowards and demanding that the deputy who had manhandled Jeffers be identified, fired and prosecuted. Memorializing the activity were at least three videographers who were part of the Enamorodo entourage carrying handheld, shoulder-mounted or tripod-based video cameras.
Near the northeast corner of Palmdale Road and McArt Road is the Mister Car Wash, located on property the back corner of which is within easy visual distance of the back parking lot and equipment yard of the sheriff’s station. While the protest was ongoing, a couple driving a Hyundai sedan came into the business for a car wash. Having finished, with the woman driving and the man seated beside her, the couple attempted to leave through the Mister Car Wash exit onto Palmdale Road. They were unable to do so, as both the traffic flow and the constant stream of protesters on the sidewalk and in the gutter of Palmdale Road prevented the Hyundai from progressing any further forward. They exhibited patience initially, but after more than two minutes, the woman sounded the Hyundai’s horn. This had no appreciable impact on the protesters, who continued to file in front of the car, such that the driver could not move the car forward without running into and possibly injuring one or more of the protesters. A further wait ensued, at which point the woman sounded the horn once more and the man opened the door on the passenger’s side of the car. As he emerged, he was immediately engaged by three of the Enamorados, who accused him of opening the door on one of the woman protesters. One, then two, and then a third Enamorado began to rain blows on the man, who attempted to defend himself while he was angled away from the car and then knocked to the ground. As he attempted to get to his feet, he was pepper sprayed. He succeeded in getting up but as he was staggering, he was knocked to the ground once more and kicked while he was down. Off camera, shortly after the man came out of the car, Edin Enamorado could be heard belittling him for being less than a man for hitting the woman with his car door. After the man was pepper sprayed and on the ground for the second time, Edin Enamorado can be heard remarking that he had gotten what he deserved.
The incident was livestreamed to Enamorado’s YouTube page.
From their nearby vantage, deputies saw the assault and roughly two minutes later they came to the spot of the assault, whereupon a shoving match ensued between two of the deputies and two of the Enamorados. Within minutes, at least eight deputies had arrived. They took four of the Enamorados into custody at that time: David Chávez, 27, of Riverside, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a caustic chemical and unlawful assembly; Wendy Luján, 40, who is described variously as Edin Enamorado’s partner or wife, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a caustic chemical, obstructing a peace officer, battery and unlawful assembly; Victor Alba, 30, of Victorville, who was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a peace officer, battery and unlawful assembly; and Wayne Freeman, 36, of Moreno Valley, who was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a peace officer and unlawful assembly. At that time, the sheriff’s department did not arrest Edin Enamorado or identify the Enamorados as primary participants in the protest and accompanying violence. Upon her booking, Luján provide her jailers with a Pomona address rather than her actual residence in Upland, which the department’s investigators now believe was an effort to protect Edin Enamorado, with whom she cohabits, from being connected to what had occurred that day.
Edin Enamorado uploaded the video of the assault of the couple in the Hyundai to a social media account he controls. It was presented to the public within a context in which it was suggested that what had occurred was a demonstration of the noble efforts of the Enamorados to stand up to racism. The posting did not dwell on the consideration that both the driver of the Hyundai and the passenger who was assaulted are Hispanic.
The sheriff’s department investigation that ensued in short order brought Edin Enamorado into focus, helped along in part by his public utterances in the immediate aftermath of Chávez, Luján, Alba and Freeman arrests when he assigned blame for what had occurred to the driver of the Hyundai, who, he said, “tried to run over protesters” and her passenger, who, Enamorado asserted “hit a woman” and then assaulted Luján, who, Enamorado indignantly insisted, had merely “defended herself.”
Investigators at that juncture had identified Enamorado as the prime mover of the group he heads and, as a result, located the video of the assault which offered a visual and verbal contrast to what Enamorado claimed to have occurred. This led the investigators to explore the activities of the Enamorados and their leader in multiple other venues, which were likewise documented in posted videos.
In his crusade for justice and ending the racist practices of a cross section of private citizens and public officials, the investigators learned, Enamorado had gotten arrested earlier this year in Santa Ana when he sought to interfere with a business where a security guard had aggressively dealt with a homeless woman. In Upland, Enamorado spearheaded a series of protests over the promotion of a police detective to sergeant based on the sergeant’s teenaged daughter’s confrontation with a food vendor near the San Diego State University campus where she is a student and the sergeant’s involvement in 2013 when he was an officer in the nonfatal shooting of a Hispanic teenager. That protest involved rallies held in the neighborhood surrounding the sergeant’s home in Rancho Cucamonga. When an Upland resident questioned Enamorado’s conclusion that the police sergeant was a racist, the Enamorados refocused their attention on the Upland resident, picketing his home and insisting that he was a racist. The Enamorados, led by Edin Enamorado, then concentrated its efforts in trying to shame a 93-year-old man who lives proximate to the resident who had no involvement whatsoever in the matter. When the 93-year-old departed for another part of the city to ride out the protest, the Enamorados followed him there. During the same series of protestations, the Upland Police Department deemed it prudent to assemble a task force to remain on standby to ensure that the Enamorados did not engage in a siege or any show of violence toward San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, who lived nearby.
On October 24, when the Fontana City Council met to cast a second confirming vote for an ordinance relating to regulations pertaining to street/sidewalk vending, Enamorados showed up en masse, led by Edin Enamorado, in what proved to be a futile effort to dissuade the city council from putting the regulations in place. In addition to having to contend with city staff and elected officials who were in favor of the ordinance and appeared to be on a trajectory to give it final passage, the Enamorados were exasperated to learn that a sizable number of the city’s Latino business owners, the Hispanic Business Owners Association and both of the council’s Mexican-American members supported the ordinance, which triggered expletive-laden tirades against the city council and most particularly the mayor, repeated interruptions of the proceedings and threats of physical violence against those present voicing support for the regulations. Ultimately, the public, with the exception of the press, was removed from the council chamber and the matter was voted upon, passing unanimously. Enamorado, after having been ordered to leave and forcibly removed by the Fontana Police from the internal portion of City Hall, regrouped in the parking lot with his acolytes and directed them to go directly to the home of the mayor, where they conducted a rally, including Enamorado’s use of a bullhorn well into the late evening to regale the neighborhood with how racist of a community Fontana is. The group remained in place until the mayor returned home and quickly retreated inside, avoiding a confrontation. At around 11 p.m., a patrol car made its way down the street the mayor lives on to announce that what was going on was an unlawful assembly. Thereafter a van with no fewer than seven police officers outfitted in riot gear arrived. Marching abreast down the street, they forced those before them to make their exodus. Meanwhile, Enamorado and one of his associates who is commonly referred to as his bodyguard, had taken up a position behind where the riot squad had begun their march. At 11:24 p.m., both Enamorado and his bodyguard were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace and were booked into the sheriff’s department-run West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Early the next morning, the sheriff’s department kicked both of them loose without either having to post bail.
Enamorado was not finished with Fontana at that point, nor was Fontana finished with him.
After the October 24 meeting, Warren sought a temporary restraining order against Enamorado to keep him from coming within 100 feet of her or her home, which was not granted by the judge hearing the petition.
In November, the city council took up two issues that were of tremendous sensitivity to the community’s Hispanic population. One of those was an addendum to the sidewalk/street vending ordinance passed in October which would stipulate a $232 retrieval fee to be borne by a vendor for the return of merchandise, products, equipment or carts impounded when a citation for violation of the ordinance was issued. A second issue was the city council’s consideration of four warehouse projects, including three to be built on property where in July an unprecedented vote to deny a previous warehouse complex project had occurred. Since she had come into office in 2010, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren had been an unabashed supporter of warehouse projects. A large percentage of those facilities were built in the city’s south side. While the population of Fontana is heavily Latino, with approximately 69 percent of those living there identified as Hispanic, the city’s southernmost districts are even more heavily populated by those with Spanish surnames.
For years, a contingent of local residents and futurists have questioned whether warehouses constitute the highest and best use of the property available for development in the city and dispute Warren’s contention that they constitute positive economic development, while citing the relatively poor pay and benefits provided to those who work in logistics facilities, the large diesel-powered semi-trucks that are part of those operations with their unhealthy exhaust emissions, together with the bane of traffic gridlock they create.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of warehouses that has occurred throughout Warren’s tenure as mayor has been phenomenol, as she considers warehouses to be positive attributes to the community, as virtually anyone who can acquire or tie up property can then quickly convert the land into warehouses, consisting of tilt-up buildings, thereby making fast money. This offers “economic advancement,” she asserts, because those warehouses offer ready employment to a good portion of Fontana’s largely unskilled workforce. So successful has she been in this regard that she is known by her admirers and detractors alike as “Warehouse Warren.”
Many of her detractors maintain that it is the poorer denizens of the city, the impoverished Latino residents at the city’s south end who are bearing the brunt of the environmental havoc represented by warehouses.
Nevertheless, Warren’s advocacy of constructing warehouses had proven an unstoppable of juggernaut, as she had co-opted all of the council’s members except for one, Jesse Sandoval, making them obedient members of her ruling council coalition by providing them with huge loans from her own electioneering fund to assist them in their council campaigns or otherwise interceding directly on their behalf with the development community to get them political donations. That had included bringing a former Latino member of the city council, Jesse Armendarez, and a current Hispanic member of the council, Pete Garcia, into her fold. Until July of this year, the current council majority, consisting of Warren, Councilman John Roberts, Councilman Phil Cothran Jr. and Councilman Garcia had never – not even once – voted in opposition to a warehouse project. In July, however, in large measure because of the tireless lobbying and coordination efforts on the part of a sizable contingent of people concerned about the continuing proliferation of warehouses in Fontana, sufficient inroads were made to convince Roberts and Garcia to link up with Councilman Sandoval and oppose the construction of Acacia Real Estate Group’s proposed 540,849-square foot warehouse complex immediately adjacent to Jurupa Hills High School. It was an accomplishment of historic significance and a tribute to the persuasiveness of three individuals in particular, Ana Gonzalez, the executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Elizabeth Sena, the founder of the South Fontana Concerned Citizens Coalition, and Joaquin Castillejos.
In November, the crafty Warren, shrewdly calculating that the Enamorados would again turn out in numerous and stringent opposition to the action that would give the city the authority to fine those street vendors who had been cited for violating the newly-passed ordinance, placed onto the same council agenda four items pertaining to four warehouse proposals – one of 490,565 square feet on 18.8 acres located west of Catawba Avenue, east of Poplar Avenue and north and south of Rose Avenue proposed by Seefried Industrial Properties and another three warehouses to be built by Acacia Real Estate Group totaling 532,104 square feet to be located on what is essentially the same 29.4-acre plot of ground between Citrus and Oleander avenues, north of Santa Ana Avenue, and south of Jurupa Hills High School that the warehouse rejected in July by Sandoval, Roberts and Garcia was to have been built on. Calculating that Enamorado and his cabal would act in virtually the same way they had the previous month, Warren was looking to kill not one bird nor two birds nor three birds nor four birds with one stone but indeed five birds with a single rock.
As the November 14 meeting approached, Gonzalez, Sena and Castillejos, who were philosophically aligned with the Enamorados and other elements of the community insofar as the regulation of sidewalk and street vending goes in that they considered it to be a heavy-handed limitation on the already limited money-making potential of immigrants and that imposing a recovery fee of $232 on the vendors was overkill, were looking hopefully toward solidifying a workable if fleeting coalition with the Enamorados that would last, perhaps, for little more than a single night but which would create, if not the actuality of a huge groundswell of opposition in the community to both the impound fee and the warehouses, then the perception that, with the number of Enamorados in the council chamber added to those adamantly opposed to more warehouses, neither Roberts nor Garcia could afford to backslide and that they should stay the course they had begun in July and once again join with Sandoval in saying no to Warehouse Warren.
That did not play out, however. Adroitly, Warren arranged to have the matter relating to the impound fee heard first. True to form, Edin Enamorado and the rest of the Enamorados continued with the same playbook as previously – insisting that they held the high moral ground, that there was no justification for regulating street vendors and sidewalk vendors let alone fining them, that owners of brick and mortar businesses who complain about unfair competition from street vendors who have far less overhead than traditional businesses are white capitalist crybabies, that the establishment is racist as are all of the members of the city council and city staff and that both Garcia and Sandoval in voting for the sidewalk/street vending ordinance previously had demonstrated themselves to be “coconuts.” Added in for good measure were constant disruptions and outpourings – chants – of profanity, personal attacks on Warren and even more pointed threats of violence against those present who supported the regulation regime than were made previously. Just as had occurred on October 24, before the vote was taken, the public was cleared out of the chamber with the exception of the press. The only difference in the vote was that Sandoval did not support the impound fine, which therefore passed 4-to-1.
Instead of calling for the return of the public to the council chamber so the council could consider the land use items that were on the agenda, including the four warehouse projects, the council then took a quick vote with regard to an item that called for rescheduling the city’s traditional council meetings from at night to during the day, the rationale for which was to avoid what the council and staff said was the danger of dealing with the Enamorados during the night. The council adjourned the remainder of the meeting to 7:30 the next morning.
The suspension of the meeting meant that the more than two dozen residents and/or other members of the public who were there on the evening of November 14 to speak in opposition to the warehouse projects would need to return to City Hall early the next morning to be able to weigh in on the matter. For many, who had already sat through a delayed meeting, particularly those who would need to fulfill their professional commitments the next day or otherwise get off to work, returning on a Wednesday morning was out of the question. In one fell swoop, utilizing the opportunity that the Enamorados had provided her, Warren switched the public hearing relating to the warehouses into a forum favorable to her and the project proponents and one far less auspicious for those who were trying to keep the two properties – zoned for residential use – from being converted into industrial zones to allow logistics facilities utilizing diesel-fuel powered semi-trucks next to existing homes and a school.
Gonzalez, Sena and Castillejos did manage to show up for the 7:30 a.m. meeting, along with a handful of others. The heavy show of 25 or 30 or 35 warehouse opponents they had hoped would be there to reinforce their points or make even more persuasive arguments than they did weren’t there. One of those who did show up was Enamorado. He took more shots at Warren while going on record against the warehouse projects. Then, on the way out, he created a disturbance and was arrested.
When the time for the votes came, Roberts, Cothran and Garcia, having been subjected repeatedly to accusations that they are racists along with Warren – who is African American – were left to contemplate the validity of the arguments made against the projects, ones that stood side by side with the characterizations the Enamorados had made of them and their city. Roberts and Garcia, reversing the vote they had made in July, approved all three warehouses to be constructed next to Jurupa Hills High School and approved the other warehouse project.
This week, the Fontana City Council, in yet another tribute to the Enamorados and their political approach, passed an ordinance outlawing demonstrations or protests in residential districts.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department has carried out an in-depth inquiry into Edin Alex Enamorado and his associates, touching base with law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Pomona, Upland, Riverside, Santa Ana, Long Beach, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, Huntington Park, San Bernardino and Moorpark, places where he has pressed forward with his indefatigable mission against racism, sometimes in what has proven out to be a lawful manner and in other cases in ways that skirt the law or cross some line or other.
Of interest to the investigators was how Enamorado has been able to hold body and soul together, where he is getting his money and how he is able to afford to engage in being a voluntary and sometimes unwanted do-gooder.
Through the use of at least one undercover officer and at least two informants, the department was able to infiltrate the Enamorados, the Sentinel has learned. In recent weeks, information that Edin Enamorado was previously nonchalant about sharing has now been restricted. There have been other manifestations of caution. He was once proud to post videos of the protests he was spearheading, seemingly convinced that the physical punishment the Enamorados would mete out from time to time to those deemed deserving of such treatment was not only morally justifiable but legally acceptable given the racism and illegal activity of those mistreating and abusing sidewalk/street vendors and immigrants in general. He seems to have recognized that others, including authorities, might not see it in the same light, and many of the videos he streamed and which were widely available as postings on social media thereafter, including TikTok and YouTube, have been taken down. This, investigators believe, demonstrates Enamorado’s consciousness of guilt. Despite his newfound wariness, law enforcement agencies have secured copies of several incriminatory videos, such as the one involving the attack on the passenger who emerged from the Hyundai on September 24 during the protest along Palmdale Road.
Enamorado has also unwittingly, in talking to the media over the past two or three years, made statements that could redound to his detriment legally.
As a convicted felon, Enamorado is restricted from possessing weapons and certain materials and equipment. One such restricted item is pepper spray and chemical agents, which in some contexts are considered defensive implements but which alternately have offensive potential.
While being interviewed by Hal Eisner of FOX 11 News about his efforts to assist street and sidewalk vendors, Enamorado on video admitted to being in possession of a weapon he cannot legally possess, which he provides to vendors as protective gear.
“First of all, I usually give out pepper spray, a horn,” he said to Eisner. “I obtain their phone number. I add them to my data base.”
Early December 14, sheriff’s deputies served arrest and search warrants at seven different locations, arresting eight Enamorados.
Edin Alex Enamorado and Wendy Luján were taken into custody at their residence in Upland 3:55 a.m. Enamorado was arrested on suspicion of violating PC 22801(a), being a prohibited person in possession of pepper spray; PC 182, conspiracy; PC 236, false imprisonment; PC 422, making criminal threats; PC 245, assault with a deadly weapon; PC 29800(a) (1) being a felon in Possession of a firearm; and PC 207 – kidnapping. Luján, 40, was arrested on suspicion of violating PC 182, conspiracy; and PC 236, false imprisonment.
David Chávez, 28 of Riverside, who was arrested previously by the department along with Lujan on September 24 in Victorville, was arrested at his residence in Riverside at 4:05 a.m. on charges of PC 182, conspiracy; PC 236, false imprisonment; and PC 244, assault with chemical agents.
Stephanie Amésquita, 33 of San Bernardino, was arrested at 4:22 a.m. on charges of PC 236, false imprisonment; and PC 22810(G)(1), illegal use of tear gas.
Gullit Eder Acevedo, 30 of San Bernardino, was arrested at 4:10 a.m. and charged with violating PC 245.2, use of a deadly weapon on an operator of a motor vehicle; PC 236, false imprisonment; and PC 182.5 conspiracy to commit a gang-related felony. Acevedo is also known as Jaguar Arreola.
Edwin Pena, 26 of Los Angeles was arrested at 4:46 a.m. and charged with violating PC 245.2, use of a deadly weapon on the operator of a motor vehicle; PC 422(A), threatening to engage in a crime with the intent to terrorize; and PC 236, false imprisonment.
Fernando López, 44 of Los Angeles was arrested at 3:20 a.m. on suspicion of violating PC 422(A), threatening to engage in a crime with the intent to terrorize; PC 244, assault by throwing acid; and PC 236, false imprisonment. López is also known as Patino.
Vanessa Carrasco, 40 of Ontario, was arrested at 4:08 a.m. on suspicion of violating PC 422(A), threatening to engage in a crime with the intent to terrorize; PC 236, false imprisonment; and PC 182 (A) (1), conspiracy to commit a crime.
All eight are being held without bail until their arraignment Monday, which is to take place in Victorville.
At a press conference held after the arrests attended by both Sheriff Shannon Dicus and District Attorney Jason Anderson, Dicus said the Enamorados arrested were masquerading as crusaders for justice who were seeking to eradicate racism while they were themselves engaged in racist activity. The sheriff said the Enamorados were harassing people by falsely cooking up accusations of racism, “causing them to get on their knees to beg for forgiveness while still assaulting them. Videos of the truth were manipulated and put out to the public to make it look like an underserved population was being represented kind of Robin Hoodish, when, in fact, it was felonious activity behind this. They [the Enamorados] have a large following. The more clicks they get, the more money they make as it relates to how the systems they operate within work. They’re more about not substance for what their issues are, but really getting that clickbait and making money off that, just like any internet influencer does.”
Dicus said, “What this group does is not protected by the First Amendment. It’s illegal to assault someone who doesn’t agree with you. In San Bernardino County, I, along with our local chiefs of police, will continue to uphold the law and protect citizens from this type of unlawful behavior.”
Because of Edin Enamorado’s propensity for making accusations of racism against public officials and law enforcement agencies in particular, the sheriff’s department arranged to have Hispanic officers assigned to the case. Similarly, the district attorney’s office is assigning the evaluation of the case and its possible prosecution to a Latino deputy district attorney.
Detective Sergeant Tony Romero, who works out of the Victorville Sheriff’s Department headquarters, oversaw the investigation. At Thursday’s press conference, he said, “This investigation began in late September, when we investigated a brutal assault that occurred at a protest in the City of Victorville. The investigation quickly became a multi-agency investigation when we discovered our group of suspects were responsible for violent acts during other protests in both San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. The investigation stemmed from multiple incidents involving this group, to include the assault that occurred in our city on September 24, 2023. Throughout the course of our ten-week investigation, investigators identified eight active suspects belonging to this group of activists who committed the crimes of assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, conspiracy, convicted felon in possession of a firearm and other offenses currently under the review of the district attorney’s office.”
Romero said, “During the arrests and search warrants, evidence was collected to corroborate the crimes that were committed. The evidence will not be released to protect the integrity of the investigation at this time.”
Christian Contreras, a civil rights and criminal defesne attorney who is representing the Enamorados, stated on Instagram, “The arrests of the Justice 8, including Edin Alex Enamorado, are highly disturbing and tactics straight out of a third world country. Edin and his team have been doing great work advocating for the marginalized. These arrests are not only an attack on the Latino community, but an attack on the activist community as a whole.”
Contreras said, “I will be in court this Monday at 8:30 am in Victorville Superior Court to defend the Justice 8 and fight these baseless charges. Please come to court to show your support.”
Contreras had not responded by press time to the Sentinel’s inquiries as to the manner in which the Enamorados had been penetrated by undercover operatives and informants and the claims by Dicus and Romero that the evidence accumulated by investigators indicated that the eight had engaged in activity that went beyond the bounds of speech and involved physical assaults.
By Mark Gutglueck