7 Of 8 Enamorados Remain Jailed As Misdirection Plagues Defense

For the third week in a row, Edin Enamorado and the eponymous group of activists he leads have been outmaneuvered by the authorities in the battle that counts, that being the effort to take possession of the evidence implicative of their propensity for escalating their activism into physical confrontations and incidental violence.
Both previously and in the first two weeks after eight Enamorados including Edin Enamorado himself were blitzed by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies in predawn raids on December 14 and taken into custody, charged with conspiracy, assault and a host of related charges, they and their movement had relied upon civil rights attorney Christian Contreras to serve as their mouthpiece and legal representative. While Contreras’s true talent consists of advocacy for the advancement of the liberty, egalitarianism, social inclusion and the eradication of prejudice, constructing a defense against criminal charges was not and is not his strong suit. With each assertion by Contreras that the eight Enamorados or, as Contreras insisted on referring to them, “the Freedom 8,” were engaged in earnest efforts to promote social and political reform, his clients were losing ground as the sheriff’s department and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office were making strides in convincing the court that the Enamorados’ crusade to protect Hispanics in general and recent immigrants from Latin America more specifically, particularly those who are seeking to make their way in the world by sidewalk/street vending, had, on occasion made use of violence and intimidation.
In his approach, Contreras emphasized that the motives and intent of his clients in their willingness to become a buffer protecting downtrodden Latinos was a defensible principle and they were being demonized and unfairly tarnished because of the intrepid way they go about what they are doing. The government was using, Contreas said, its overwhelming power and authority in an illegitimate bid to foreclose the Enamorados’ right of free expression.
With his focus on rhetorical rhapsody and seizing the moral high ground to ensure that his clients have a path for effectuating social reform rather than deflecting accusations of wrongdoing by his clients, what Contreras was missing was that the authorities were not angling to shut the Enamorados in general and Edin Enamorado in particular up but instead seeking to ensure that the statements they, most notably Edin Enamorado, had made remain on the public billboard that is social media. It was those acts of public speech and free expression which the prosecution has found to be in its own interest to not only preserve, but ultimately, highlight. What Contreras failed to grasp was that every day, indeed every hour and even every minute that his primary client – Edin Enamorado – remained incarcerated, the forces arrayed against him – primarily the sheriff’s department investigators, had not only the opportunity but the time to harvest from the internet and a host of social media platforms materials – many of them videos – that will ultimately serve as the ammunition to be loaded, aimed and then volleyed at Enamorado and his cohorts when they come before a jury.
It is Edin Enamorado’s deeply held belief that America, i.e., North America, was and therefore still is the land of the indigenous people of the Americas. In his worldview, foreigners, primarily in the form of European colonizers, usurped the land and resources that the indigenous tribes had enjoyed as their own for tens of thousands, indeed, hundreds of thousands, of years without the interference of outsiders.
As the rich white Europeans engage in the domination of Latinos or La Raza through their capitalistic system and hoard the wealth and goods they are accumulating by continuing to exploit those who are less fortunate and not well-fixed financially, according to Enamorado, he and those with whom he networks and is in league are perfectly and morally justified in taking back what was taken from them. For members of the Anglo establishment to tell a Latino that he should go back to Mexico, Enamorado has said, is like a human telling a fish that it should get out of the sea. It is not the Mexicanos who should go back to Mexico but rather the white population that is socially and economically ascendant in the Golden State who should, as he once put it to Dr. Phil McGraw on national television, “go back to England.”
In carrying out his calling of protecting the Latino and immigrant population being assailed formally or informally, officially or unofficially by agents of the white-controlled government such as the police or municipal code enforcement officers or white bigoted bullies who insult, assault or interfere in any way with street vendors or sidewalk vendors, Edin Enamorado maintains he and the group he leads are entirely justified in responding in kind by fighting fire with fire.
In his role a social justice crusader, Enamorado engages in a form of street activism and politicking that consists of 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, immediately dismissing any response his target manages to get in edgewise, 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 social media platforms Enamorado controls. Some of those depict an individual being confronted or in other cases bystanders to the protests the Enamorados are engaged in 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, Enamorado and his associates were active in Southern California, primarily in Los Angeles County, making occasional forays elsewhere. In 2023, several of the Enamorados’ actions took place in San Bernardino County, partly as an outgrowth of his effort to avenge the action of some San Diego State University students who had, in his words, harassed a street vendor. One of those students was Breanna Peelman, the daughter of Upland Police Sergeant Nick Peelman. The Enamorados cited a connection between the incident in San Diego involving Peelman’s daughter and Peelman’s entanglement in a 2013 shooting of an 18-year-old Hispanic. In the same timeframe, Enamorado took up residency in Upland, which he at one point implied but did not directly state was occasioned by his efforts to have Nick Peelman bounced off the Upland Police force. That effort included holding nighttime rallies on the residential block in neighboring Rancho Cucamonga where Sergeant Peelman lives. Using his trademark bullhorn, Enamorado exhorted a group of Enamorados who had accompanied him there to voice their disapproval of what he called Peelman’s bigotry.
With his advent in San Bernardino County, Enamorado espoused similar causes as he had taken up elsewhere. When the City of Fontana in October undertook to pass a sidewalk/street vendor regulation ordinance and the following month augment the ordinance with $232 vendor cart/merchandise impound fee, the Enamorados showed up en masse at the city council meetings where those matters were on the agenda to register their protest, in both cases resulting in disruptions which prompted Mayor Acquanetta Warren to clear the council chambers of the public before the council voted on the matter behind closed doors. By the fashion in which Edin Enamorado conducted himself, staging a rally on the street where Warren lived after the crowd was excluded from the October 24 meeting at 10 p.m. that evening and returning to the council chamber the morning of November 15 for the continuation of the meeting that Warren had suspended on the evening of November 14, at which point he engaged in another disruption, he was arrested on both occasions by the Fontana Police Department.
After the October 24 meeting, the City of Fontana sought a temporary restraining order against Enamorado to keep him from coming within 100 feet of Mayor Warren or her home. On October 27, Superior Court Judge Ron Gilbert denied the request for that civil harassment temporary restraining order.
When Upland residents objected to the Enamorados’ characterization of Peelman, the police department and the entire city and Upland community as racist, Edin Enamorado organized protests outside some of their homes, at one point following the 93-year-old father of one of those residents from one of his son’s home to the home of another of his sons who also resided in Upland. At one point, when a congregation of more than 30 Enamorados swarmed a residential neighborhood in northern Upland, given that the residence of District Attorney Jason Anderson and his family was nearby, the Upland Police Department felt it necessary to send a contingent of officers to shadow the group and monitor the circumstance using a magnifying video camera and a parabolic listening device.
Edin Enamorado was arrested when several Enamorados conducted a protest outside the home of an Apple Valley woman to protest what they said was a racist rant she had engaged in while within a Disneyland restroom when she encountered a woman speaking Spanish to her son.
It was an incident on September 24 that led to the extended incarceration and extensive criminal charges against the eight Enamorados.
On that day, they had come to Downtown Victorville in the area that included the highly visible span of Palmdale Road between Amargosa Road and McArt Road, a stone’s throw from the sheriff’s station on Amargosa Road, to protest the action of a sheriff’s deputy who had been videotaped slamming a 16-year-old girl as he and a fellow deputy sought to break up a fight between that girl and another that had broken out in the parking lot outside Ray Moore Stadium in the immediate aftermath of a high school football game between Victor Valley and Big Bear the evening of September 22.
Bullhorn in hand, 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. Exhorting the crowd and demanding that the deputy who had injured Jeffers be identified, fired and prosecuted, Enamorado 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.
As the protest was ongoing, a couple in a relatively late model Hyundai had gone into the car wash proximate to the sheriff’s station near the intersection of McArt Road and Palmdale Road. 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.
As it was ongoing, 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. Narrowly, Edin Enamorado avoided arrest, but the deputies 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.
Upon her booking, Luján provided 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.” The video 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 the 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.”
When investigators observed the video of the assault which offered a visual and verbal contrast to what Enamorado claimed to have occurred, they began 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.
A department investigator working undercover in the guise of a social activist gained access to several Enamorados, obtaining crucial information in that way. At least two Enamorados who had been arrested by the department or other agencies proved 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.
At some point, Edin Enamorado took stock of how the extended video of the protests in Victorville on September 24, 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.
Despite the Chávez, Luján, Alba and Freeman arrests in Victorville on September 24 and the arrest of Enamorado himself in Fontana on October 24 and November 15 and Apple Valley on December 10, the Enamorados grew progressively bolder with their actions and protests in San Bernardino County. Early in the morning of December 14, between 3:20 a.m. and 4:46 a.m., however, department teams in a coordinated set of seven raids served arrest and search warrants at the Upland apartment of Enamorado, 36, and Luján, 40; the Riverside home of Chávez, 28; the Bell habitation of Fernando López, 44; the Ontario premises of Vanessa Carrasco, 40; the San Bernardino abode of Gullit Eder Acevedo, 30; the San Bernardino residence of Stephanie Amésquita, 33; and the Los Angeles apartment of Edwin Peña, 26. All are identified as Enamorados active in protests for social justice that turned violent. Contreras denounced the arrests as “baseless” and the charges “absurd and resemblant of conduct in a third world country.” He said, “The arrests of the Victorville 8, including Edin Alex Enamorado, were clearly done in retaliation for such activists exercising their First Amendment rights. Criticizing elected officials and law enforcement officers should never be criminalized and that it what the sheriff’s department has done in this case.”
The portrayals of the arrests as an attack on the First Amendment, however, ignored the violence that had occurred during the September 24 protest in Victorville and the irrefutable video evidence, which originated not with the sheriff’s department but the Enamorados themselves. In this way, when the arraignment for the defendants took place on December 18, Contreras missed a crucial opportunity to contest the arrests and the prosecution request for a no bail hold on all of the defendants on relevant technical grounds, instead engaging in a rhetorical flourish calculated for public relations purposes with the public in general, rather than with the judge, Shannon Faherty, who had been a deputy prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office before she spent two years as a court commissioner before her 2020 appointment to the Superior Court.
As a consequence, Judge Faherty was persuaded by the prosecution’s assertions that releasing any of the eight would represent a threat to the community, which entailed them remaining jailed through Christmas until their next hearing, which was supposed to take place on December 26 before Judge Zahara Arredondo.
Contreras pushed forward with the legally moribund theory that the arrests and filing of criminal charges against the eight constituted a constitutional violation, arguing that because the defendants were social and political activists, any action they took was protected under the First Amendment. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus Contreras filed with the Court of Appeals, labeling the Enamorados detention “unconstitutional,” was denied.
On December 26, the hearing for the eight that was supposed to take place before Judge Arredondo was instead conducted by Judge Melissa Rodriguez, who scheduled a preliminary hearing and bail consideration for them two days hence. On December 28, again with Judge Rodriguez presiding, the court acceded to the prosecution requests to perpetuate the no bail holds on Enamorado, Chávez, López, Carrasco, Amésquita and Peña, while agreeing to grant Acevedo bail of $40,000 and defer a bail review for Luján until January 2.
Acevedo had the fewest number of counts against him of all of the defendants. He was 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.
Enamorado is charged with 16 felonies; Luján with 14; Chávez, is charged with the same 14 counts lodged against Carrasco; Peña is charged with 14 counts; López is charged with 12 counts; and Amésquita faces nine counts.
While the ostensible purpose for keeping the Enamorados locked up is the physical threat they represent to the community at large, the actual rationale and the practical benefit of doing so for the prosecution is it buys further time for the investigators to not only interact with the informants within the Enamorados that they have cultivated but to carry out an exhaustive examination of the videos and other materials that the Enamorados, Edin Enamorado in particular, have mounted on multiple social media platforms. Obtained during the early morning raids on December 14 were cell phones and computers at the various defendants’ homes. The seizure of those devices potentially has allowed the department investigators and forensic analysts to review video and social media postings to websites Edin Enamorado controls or has access to, videos that were once mounted but taken down or ones that might not have been mounted or uploaded to those websites or platforms. It is not known, however, outside of the sheriff’s department or district attorney’s office whether investigators were able to crack whatever protections barring access Enamorado may have had on those devices. The more time the department’s forensic examiners and cyber system consultants have to work on those items, the greater the chances are that they will obtain access to those videos, some of which include evidence of physical confrontations between some of the Enamorados and those they were targeting with their protests or, as in the case in Victorville on September 24, bystanders who were caught in the middle.
At the time of the Enamorados’ arrests, Edin Enamorado had dozens or even scores of postings to various social media accounts yet in place, including ones it appears that he was monitoring for the public responses they were generating and others which he may have forgotten about. Some of those contain material which could be of assistance to prosecutors. Enamorado’s continuing incarceration is preventing those postings from being taken down, giving investigators a grant of further time during which to discover their existence and preserve them.
In the immediate aftermath of the December 14 arrests, the Sentinel was in contact with Contreras’s office and sought to obtain from him whether he had ascertained which Enamorados had been persuaded by law enforcement to serve as informants and whether Contreras was preparing to have the court exclude as evidence any statements made by those informants and/or videos made by the Enamorados during the course of their protests.
Contreras did not respond to those inquiries.
The Sentinel has now learned that the Enamorados are no longer utilizing Contreras as their criminal defense attorney and are instead represented by Nicholas Rosenberg, a five star attorney who has had considerable success in getting clients exonerated at trial or severely weakening the cases against his clients by exploration and discovery of the various means of investigation used by law enforcement agencies in building those cases, including the use of informants and undercover operatives, and then successfully excluding inculpatory evidence.
Contreras remains the Enamorados’ legal representative with regard to the assertion of their civil rights and privileges under the U.S. and California constitutions.
Mark Gutglueck

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