The eight Enamorados taken into custody in predawn raids in both San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties on December 14 remain locked up after court hearings before Judge Shannon Faherty Monday morning. It does not appear that the octet, who are accused of incorporating violence into their social activism in support of the dispossessed within Southern California’s Latino community, bear any prospect of leaving jail before Boxing Day, December 26.
Multiple levels of irony attend the current circumstance of the eight Enamorados, as there is a constant discrepancy, it seems, between both intent and outcome as well as perception and reality when it come to the group and its highly controversial leader.
Edin Alex Enamorado holds himself out as a do-gooder, justice crusader, upholder of civil rights and protector of Hispanics, immigrants and the impoverished. His followers seek to emulate him and follow in what they consider to be his enlightened and benevolent path. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and now the county district attorney’s office, however, maintain that the Enamorados ratchet their guardianship of the indigent up into assaults upon the innocent, using spurious justifications in doing so.
Edin Enamorado and his namesake zealots maintain that they are surrounded by cruel and inhumane racists who are exploiting their Latino sisters and brothers and that in the face of such incivility they are engaged in a mission of righteousness by striking down upon those who are victimizing the oppressed. According to the district attorney’s office, the Enamorados have themselves crossed the line into intolerance by physically assailing individuals who have not at once adhered to their conception of what the social order should be and, on other occasion, on the basis of ethnicity, such that they are engaging in racism and bigotry.
While Edin Enamorado and the Enamorados assert they are free speech advocates who test the boundaries of expression to protect the civil liberties that form the basis of our Constitutional rights, others say they often overwhelm those who enunciate a philosophy that differs from their own with obloquy and sometimes with brutal force.
A primary constituency of the downtrodden that Edin Enamorado and his cohorts have taken up the cause for are immigrants, both illegal and legal. A manifestation of illegal immigrant culture is street or sidewalk vending, as many new arrivals do not have the skill or training to function within other sectors of the U.S. Economy. It is known that Edin Enamorado, sometimes accompanied by others, sometimes on his own, has over the last couple of years advocated on behalf of sidewalk/street vendors in Los Angeles, Pomona, Upland, Fontana, Riverside, Santa Ana, Long Beach, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, Huntington Park, San Bernardino and Moorpark. Those efforts go, quite often, beyond mere advocacy and include providing what Edin Enamorado refers to as “security,” in which he or other Enamorados act as bodyguards, warding off anyone – including racist citizens, municipal or county code enforcement officers, police or other officials – who might hassle, interfere with the vendors or prevent them from operating. Enamorado will take down their phone number so he can monitor how they are doing, provide them with his phone number so he can be rallied to assist them when they need help warding off the racists who bedevil street vendors and he will provide them with chemical agents such as mace or bear spray for the vendors to use if he and his crew cannot arrive on time to deal with some untoward situation.
The Enamorados at least occasionally take up the causes of those they consider to be unfortunate victims of prejudice beyond street vendors or immigrants. One such effort took place on September 24, a protest targeting the San Bernardino County sheriff’s station in Victorville, one undertaken on behalf of 16-year-old Victor Valley High School Student Faith Jeffers. On September 22, Jeffers had been in attendance at the 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, during which Jeffers was involved in a physical altercation with another girl. Two sheriff’s deputies attempted to intervene in the melee, one of whom got between Jeffers and her combatant. When Jeffers bent at the hip and reached toward deputy’s service belt, prompting him to reach down to secure the weapons and devices there, another deputy approached Jeffers from behind, lifted her and with some degree of force threw her to the pavement before both deputies turned their attention to subduing the other girl. Jeffers was injured and briefly hospitalized. A video of the incident went viral, sparking outrage. Edin Enamorado led a party of roughly 40 Enamorados, most of them from lower San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County, to Victorville on that Sunday, as they carried placards calling for justice and paraded in the vicinity of the sheriff’s station located on Amargosa Road and in the surrounding block including Palmdale Road, McArt Road and the parking lot of the nearby Destiny Christian Center. Edin Enamorado used his bullhorn to exhort the crowd and demand that the deputy who had injured Jeffers be identified, fired and prosecuted. He sometimes used his cell phone to videorecord the protest, which was also being memorialized for posterity by at least three other Enamorados using shoulder-held, handheld or tripod-mounted video cameras.
Proximate to the sheriff’s station between Amargosa Road and McArt Road facing onto Palmdale Road are some commercial concerns, including a car wash. That afternoon, as the protest was ongoing, a couple in a relatively late model Hyundai had gone into the car wash. Upon attempting to leave, the woman, who was driving, was unable to pull onto Palmdale Road from the car wash parking lot’s exit because of the traffic flow on Palmdale Road coupled with the constant stream of protesters moving in both directions on the sidewalk and gutter of the roadway. Despite the Hyundai’s obvious presence and the driver’s intent to leave, the protesters remained disregardful of the car and its occupants as most were engaged in making a show of protest to the motorists passing by on Palmdale Road.
The occupants of the Hyundai 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, at least one of whom referred to him as a “bitch” and 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.
The incident was captured on video from at least three perspectives. Among those who can be seen in one of the video depictions hitting the man is Edin Enamorado, who does so with his left fist while holding and continuing to video with his cellphone in his right hand.
The man 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.
Edin Enamorado at that point avoided, narrowly, arrest. In the confusion that ensued as several brawls broke out while the arrests were being effectuated the deputies were too distracted to identify Edin Enamorado as the leader of the protest. Nor did the arresting officers have any real sense of who the Enamorados are or their roles 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 sheriff’s department’s investigators, as a result of their subsequent investigation, 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 an extended video of the protest including the assault of the couple in the Hyundai to a social media account on TikTok he controls under heading “Edin Enamorado is going live.” of. 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 the passenger of the Hyundai who was assaulted is Hispanic.
The sheriff’s department investigation that ensued in short order brought Edin Enamorado into focus, helped along in part by his utterances to the media and other public forums 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. Thereafter, they 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.
As investigators delved into the circumstance, they became aware of further incidents involving the Enamorados and Edin Enamorado specifically, and began trading notes with the police agencies in Los Angeles, Pomona, Upland, Fontana, Riverside, Santa Ana, Long Beach, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, Huntington Park, San Bernardino and Moorpark, and their dealings with him. Along the way there had been a handful of missteps and miscues, including opportunities to observe or even dialogue with/interview/interrogate Enamorado directly when he was placed into the department’s custody and then quickly cite released following his arrest by the Fontana Police Department on October 24 and then again on November 16, both outgrowths of Enamorado’s confrontations with the Fontana City Council, in particular Mayor Acquanetta Warren.
The department had an array of investigative options available to it, including access to some of the Enamorados and their associates who had been arrested by the department or other agencies who were therefore vulnerable to compromise by means of deals that could be cut with them in exchange for cooperation to include providing inside information known only to the Enamorados themselves. The department has also cultivated its own undercover operatives, including Hispanic officers capable of assuming the persona and traits of the barrio. By last month, the Sentinel is told, the department had effectively penetrated the Enamorados with at least one undercover officer and two informants.
As the cases against Chávez, Luján, Alba and Freeman based on their September 24 arrests progressed, Edin Enamorado appears to have taken stock of how the extended video of the protests in Victorville that day including the assault on the couple in the Hyundai represented evidence of criminal activity by both him and his associates, and he removed it from his social media platform. That, investigators and prosecutors believe, is a demonstration of what they term “consciousness of guilt” on Enamorado’s part. Despite his scrubbing of the video, investigators had already secured a reprint.
In addition, an exploration of the various posting Edin Enamorado has made going back for some time allowed investigators to get an accurate profile of the formula he uses in his crusade against racism and prejudice. This approach toward shaping opinion and influencing those he comes into contact with as often as not consists of real time physical confrontation, a recipe that has as its ingredients 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 generate more heat than light. Key elements of Enamorado’s tactics are being surrounded by a physically intimidating support network, the use of surprise, verbal domination and videography to capture indelible moving sound images 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 a variety of 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.
Previously, upon being challenged, would assert that he and his organization started from a position of rectitude – the eradication of racism – and proceed from there. His was a just cause, he insisted, and those who stood with him moral crusaders. Those who opposed him and the Enamorados by his side were opposed to civil rights and freedom of speech, he said, and he vowed retribution in the form of legal action in which he had the U.S. Constitution on his side such that he would bankrupt those who opposed him.
Christian Contreras, at attorney specializing in civil rights and criminal defense, who is billed by his law firm as “one of the top-rated attorneys in the nation,” has on more than one occasion moved to backed Enamorado.
In October, when the Enamorados led by Edin Enamorado surfaced in Fontana to oppose that city’s imposition of an ordinance to regulate street/sidewalk vendors and physically intimidated some of the supporters of the ordinance, including referring to some members of the Latino Small Business Alliance and other Hispanics in the city who supported it as “coconuts – brown on the outside but white on the inside,” who deserved to “be fucked up” and launched pointed personal attacks on Mayor Acquanetta Warren and then conducted protests around her home until after 11 p.m. at night, the city went to court to obtain a temporary restraining order, logged as a “petition to prevent workplace violence” filed for on October 27 against Edin Enamorado specifically, to enjoin him from coming within 100 feet of Warren. On October 27, Superior Court Judge Ron Gilbert denied the request for that civil harassment temporary restraining order.
Nevertheless, sheriff’s department investigators delving into the activity of the Enamorados and several instances involving Enamorado himself by last month had come to the conclusion that what may have started out as protected exercisions of First Amendment rights at expression of opinion or the petitioning of the redress of grievances against the government had crossed the line from speech to criminal, and in some cases, felonious violence. Moreover, in the production of videos intended as much or more for the consumption of his followers as the public at large, the application of that violence is featured as standard method of approach in the Enamorados comportment. The capturing of that ethos on video in which Enamorado sought for himself and the Enamorados he has spawned to be seen as avenging angels inflicting upon the community’s racists the punishment they deserve represents, in the hands of prosecutors, the evidence to make the case against those who have now been arrested and charged.
Sheriff’s investigator, after identifying those depicted in the video evidence now in their possession, obtained arrest and further search warrants for Enamorado and seven of his associates.
The raids were carried out with clock-like precision in the early morning hours of December 14.
One team arrived at 3560 East Gage Avenue in Bell at 3:20 a.m., at which point they awoke Fernando López, 44, and took him into custody 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.
At 3:55 a.m., another sheriff’s team in Upland went to the apartment at 1610 West Arrow Route that Enamorado shares with Wendy Luján. They were both taken into custody, Enamorado, 36, 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, and Luján, 40, on suspicion of violating PC 182, conspiracy; and PC 236, false imprisonment.
At 4:05 a.m., deputies burst in upon David Chávez, 28, who had been arrested previously by the department along with Luján on September 24 in Victorville, at his residence located at 3863 Del Air Street in Riverside, taking him into custody on suspicion of violating PC 182, conspiracy; PC 236, false imprisonment; and PC 244, assault with chemical agents.
At 4:08 a.m., at her 742 West Sunkist Street residence in Ontario, Vanessa Carrasco, 40, was arrested 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.
At 4:10 a.m., sheriff’s deputies moved on Gullit Eder Acevedo, 30, at his domicile at 2855 Fremontia Drive in San Bernardino, arresting him on charges of 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.
At 4:22 a.m., sheriff’s deputies rushed upon Stephanie Amésquita, 33, at her 1936 Magnolia Avenue place of residence in San Bernardino, arresting her on charges of PC 236, false imprisonment; and PC 22810(G)(1), illegal use of tear gas.
At 4:46 a.m., sheriff’s deputies raided the premises of Edwin Pena, 26, at 1809 West 11th Street Unit 310 in Los Angeles, taking him into custody on suspicion of having violated 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.
All eight were initially held without bail based on concerns the judge had for the safety of the public. On December 18, they were then arraigned in the Victorville Courtroom of Judge Shannon Faherty.
Faherty arraigned Enamorado on the seven charges he had been arrested on along with nine others. At present, Enamorado is charged with one count of conspiracy; two counts of threatening to engage in an assault that will result in in death or great bodily injury; three counts of false imprisonment; one count of kidnapping; three counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; three counts of unlawful use of tear gas; one count of vandalism involving destruction of property worth $400 or more; one count of possession of tear gas by a convicted felon; one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Faherty arraigned Luján on the two charges she was arrested on and 12 further ones prepared against her by the district attorney’s office. She is now charged with one count of conspiracy; three counts of unlawful use of tear gas; three counts of assault by a means likely to result in great bodily injury; one count of vandalism to property worth $400 or more; three charges of false imprisonment; one charge of kidnapping; and two counts of threatening to engage in an assault that would be likely to produce great bodily injury.
The three charges against López were transformed such that the direct reference to an acid attack was wrapped into an assault charge and he was hit with a total of 12 counts at his arraignment. At present, he is charged with one count of conspiracy; two counts of threatening to engage in an assault that would be likely to produce great bodily injury; two counts of false imprisonment; one charge of kidnapping; two counts of assault by means likely to result in great bodily injury; two counts of unlawful use of tear gas; one count of vandalism to property worth $400 or more; and one count of possession of tear gas by a convicted felon.
Chávez, who had been arrested on suspicion of three charges was arraigned on one count of conspiracy; two counts of threatening to engage in an assault that would be likely to produce great bodily injury; three counts of false imprisonment; one charge of kidnapping; three counts of assault by means likely to result in great bodily injury; three counts of unlawful use of tear gas; and one count of vandalism to property worth $400 or more.
Carrasco was arraigned on 14 charges precisely the same as those levied against Chávez: one count of conspiracy; two counts of threatening to engage in an assault that would be likely to produce great bodily injury; three counts of false imprisonment; one charge of kidnapping; three counts of assault by means likely to result in great bodily injury; three counts of unlawful use of tear gas; and one count of vandalism to property worth $400 or more.
Gullit Acevedo was arraigned on four charges that were recontexted from the three charges he was arrested on. Those four charges are one count of conspiracy; one count of unlawful use of tear gas; one charge of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury; and one charge of false imprisonment.
Amésquita at her arraignment saw the two charges she was arrested on expanded to nine. She was arraigned on one count of conspiracy; a single count of threatening to engage in an assault that would be likely to produce great bodily injury; two counts of false imprisonment; two counts of assault by means of force likely to result in great bodily injury; two counts of unlawful use of tear gas; and one count of vandalism to property worth $400 or more.
Pena saw the three charges the sheriff arrested him on zoom to 14 counts alleged by the district attorney’s office and for which he was arraigned by Faherty. He was arraigned on one count of conspiracy; two counts of threatening to engage in an assault that would be likely to produce great bodily injury; three counts of false imprisonment; one charge of kidnapping; three counts of assault by means of force likely to result in great bodily injury; three counts of unlawful use of tear gas; and one count of vandalism to property worth $400 or more.
All charges leveled against the defendants are felonies.
Faherty continued the no bail hold on each until December 26, at which point they are to appear before Judge Zahara Arredondo.
Enamorado is incarcerated at the High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto, which is operated by the sheriff. Chávez is housed at the High Desert Detention Facility. Acevedo, who is also known as Jaguar Arreola, is housed at the High Desert Detention Facility. López, who is also known as Patino, is housed at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, which is closer to Los Angeles, making it easier for his family to visit him.
Luján, Amésquita and Carrasco are incarcerated at West Valley Detention Center.
While Judge Faherty cited concerns about the safety of the public that would be endangered if the defendants were to be released in continuing the no bail hold on all eight defendants, the actual reason keeping Enamorado, Luján, Chávez, Carrasco, Acevedo, Amésquita, López and Pena is the investigators’ concern that if they were to be released – most particularly, Enamorado – evidence that the department has yet to discover and gather in terms of postings to the internet on various social media accounts will be taken down or removed. It has been the casual, indeed cavalier and naively brazen, manner in which Enamorado publicly shared his exploits in “protecting” and “shielding” vulnerable victims of racism Enamorado saw it as his calling to serve, action that on multiple occasions devolved into out-and-out physical confrontations and assaults, that has allowed the sheriff’s department to put the case it has now handed over to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office together.
All eight of the Enamorados are currently represented by the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office. There is a motion pending before the court to have the public defender’s office substituted out and Christian Contreras substituted in as Edin Enamorado’s defense attorney, but that motion was yet pending before the court. A previous effort by the Sentinel to determine whether Contreras, who has unofficially been representing the Enamorados in general and Edin Enamorado in particular since their arrests, or anyone from his law firm, has made any headway in identifying who the informants among the Enamorados are went unanswered earlier this month. Similarly, the Sentinel has not been able to ascertain from Contreras or the public defender’s office whether the Enamorados legal team will seek to suppress the videos that Edin Enamorado had recorded of his and the Enamorados’ activities in the fight against prejudice and racism that crossed the line into occasional violence as evidence in the cases against Enamorado, Luján, Chávez, Carrasco, Acevedo, Amésquita, López and Pena and at trial.