By Mark Gutglueck
All eight of the Enamorados charged with incorporating violence into their social and political activism have been bound over for trial following the conclusion of their extended three-week preliminary hearing process, which entailed seven days of courtroom sparring that included five days of testimony.
Only one of the eight, whom investigators and prosecutors either falsely or erroneously alleged had participated in activities taking place outside San Bernardino County on September 3 of last year, has been granted bail. The other seven remain jailed and will presumably remain in custody until their trial, which is unlikely to begin in March.
The Enamorados, a self-styled group of social justice advocates led by their eponymous leader, Edin Alex Enamorado, have taken up the cause of protecting the downtrodden principally in Southern California, primarily relatively newly arrived and generally undocumented Latinos, in what they say is an effort to protect them from the racist Anglo establishment that treads upon the rights of society’s disenfranchised. In particular over the last several years, the Enamorados have sought to run interference for the region’s burgeoning number of street vendors, largely unskilled illegal immigrants who have arrived from Mexico or in some cases Central America and have sought to make a living using pushcarts or tables and canopies or in some cases food trucks from which they sell merchandise or food. These street vendors, or sidewalk vendors as they are sometimes referred to, set up their temporary operations on sidewalks or in the parking lots of existing businesses. In a significant number of cases, the vendors select as their selling venue well-traveled areas within the urban environment where they are likely to find or appeal to a sufficient number of customers to generate what is for them a livable income. Often, this entails locating in front of, next to, near or even in the parking lot of a business, such as a retail establishment, grocery store or restaurant. This has created tension between these conventional entrepreneurs and street vendors, as store and restaurant owners functioning out of brick-and-mortar establishments must contend with substantial overhead and a host of requirements and expenses such as mortgage or lease payments, permits and licensing, property tax, insurance, the collection of sales tax, inspections, the payment of payroll tax and employee medical coverage and the like, which street vendors are either not subject to or which they can relatively easily avoid. Thus, many traditional business owners have grown to resent the street and sidewalk vendors who mill about their places of business, often in competition with them for the same customers, offering products comparable to their own or what is on their menu at a cost or price below what they can afford to offer their customers. This has led to confrontations between many of those business owners and the vendors, with the business owners insisting that the vendors stay out of their parking lots and seeking as well to prevent the vendors from setting up their carts, tables or canopies near their restaurants or stores.
Until recently, the Enamorados made a practice of making contact with street vendors, sometimes after those vendors had encounters with those unhappy with their presence and in some cases in advance of the hostility the Enamorados anticipated those street vendors were going to experience. When the Enamorados made contact with those street vendors, they typically armed them with pepper spray or chemical mace with which to “protect themselves,” and provided them with their phone numbers so that the Enamorados could be contacted. In many cases, the Enamorados would swoop onto the scene, sometimes during and sometimes after, a confrontation between a business owner or business employee and a street vendor, standing up for the street vendor.
In many cities throughout Southern California, there have long been previously existing regulations pertaining to street/sidewalk vending. In still others, with the influx of undocumented immigrants flooding urban areas with their pushcarts, tables and canopies, city officials have moved to codify such regulations, banning them outright or subjecting them to licensing, permitting and inspection. The Enamorados have taken the position that such requirements are a violation of the impoverished class’s human and constitutional rights and are steeped in a racist attitude on the part of the establishment and the bigots that embody it. They have acted, in those cases where they have had adequate forewarning, to oppose those city officials in the passage of any ordinances pertaining to street vending. Moreover, they have sought to confront health department inspectors, code enforcement officials or police officers when they have acted to enforce existing laws, rules and regulations pertaining to vendors in the field as those acting in their official capacities are in the process of citing the vendors or forcing them to depart.
In their roles as social justice crusaders, the Enamorados used tactics that relied on a formula developed by Edin Enamorado, one that consisted of equal parts of a presumption of moral superiority, making accusations of racism, profanity, rapid fire questions and assertions without allowing the interlocutor an opportunity to respond, immediately dismissing any response those being engaged with manage to get in edgewise, browbeating, insults and threats. Key elements of Enamorado’s approach are surrounding the target with a physically intimidating support network, the use of surprise, verbal domination and videography to capture indelible moving sound images of the individual being confronted, in an attempt to provoke an untoward or intemperate remark or reaction. Routinely, videos of these confrontations were uploaded onto social media platforms Edin Enamorado controlled. Some of those depict an individual being confronted or in other cases bystanders to the protests the Enamorados engaged in growing impatient at being blocked or hemmed in or harangued and then reacting, whereupon the subject would be ganged up upon and physically assaulted by those present.
Up until relatively recently, the Enamorados’ focus had been not exclusively but generally limited to the greater Los Angeles area, within the city itself and mostly confined to Los Angeles County.
Edin Enamorado had grown up in Cudahy, where his participation in gang activity had been a primary influence upon him in his formative years. Enamorado was arrested multiple times and is a verified convicted felon. After serving a prison sentence and being paroled, he served three years’ probation, subsequent to which he sought to have his criminal record expunged and succeeded in having his list of convictions sealed from public view. Yet extant records show an arrest by the Vernon Police Department on May 30, 2014 on burglary and grand theft charges.
Enamorado maintains that two events pushed him out of his association with street gangs, those being the birth of his first child and the murder of his then-girlfriend by another gang that may have been focused upon her because of her connection to him. From that point on, he says, he has switched his intensity from gangbanging in pursuit of unsavory, selfish and illegal goals to seeking social justice to benefit the community. He remained, however, locked in on his home turf, initially in the area of Cudahy and its immediate surroundings until he spread gradually out to the whole of the greater Los Angeles area.
His initial restriction of his activism to Los Angeles County might have been either by chance or design. He and eventually his followers were naturally active in the area they knew best. Still, the aggressive form of advocacy the Enamorados engage in has for its practitioners certain risks. Those risks stretch from the immediate reaction physically confronting others could have to the legal implications of doing so. In 2020, George Gascón, the district attorney in San Francisco from 2011 until 2019, was elected district attorney in Los Angeles County, assuming that office in 2020. Gascón, described by many as a liberal and progressive, was elected on a reformist platform, which held that in many respects the authority of the governmental establishment has been wrongfully overapplied against the disadvantaged of society. This aligned with the deeply held beliefs of Edin Enamorado and the other Enamorados that America, i.e., North America, was and therefore still is the land of the indigenous people of the Americas and that European colonizers usurped the land and resources that rightly belong to those indigenous tribes. Since the rich white descendants of those Europeans continue to 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 the Enamorados, they are morally justified in taking back what was taken from them and protecting, by whatever means necessary, the Latino and immigrant population that is 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.
Beginning roughly two years ago, the Enamorados began to branch out, taking up the cause of street vendors or immigrants in places as far away as San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
At some point within the last two years, Enamorado and Wendy Luján, who is also considered a leader within the Enamorados and is variously described as Edin Enamorado’s wife, his partner, his fiancé or his girlfriend, relocated to Upland. Accordingly, that move to the Inland Empire at least partially refocused the attention of the Enamorados to various places in San Bernardino County and Riverside County where it was perceived that the dispossessed Hispanic population was not getting a fair shake.
The physical relocation to San Bernardino County appears to have been a fateful move, one that resulted in the bubble of protection or immunity that Edin Enamorado and his followers had presumed encompassed them having burst, leaving them exposed to the vicissitudes of a far more strict application of the law than had been the case in Los Angeles County.
Earlier this year, the Enamorados had made a brief foray to San Diego to look into the action of some San Diego State University students who had been rude and insulting to a street food vendor who had set up an operation near the university. One of the students involved, the Enamorados determined, 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 role in the department’s 2013 encounter with an 18-year-old Hispanic, Christian Rodriguez, who was shot nine times, remarkably without dying, after the officers mistook a flowerpot fragment in his hand as a gun. After Enamorado and Luján took up residency in Upland, the Enamorados undertook protest efforts aimed at having 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. Complaints from Peelman’s neighbors brought the Enamorados, generally, and Edin Enamorado, specifically, to the attention of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which serves as the contract police department in Rancho Cucamonga.
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 from a distance and monitor the circumstance using a magnifying video camera and a parabolic listening device.
The Enamorados grew progressively more bold with their actions and protests in San Bernardino County.
On September 24, Edin Enamorado led a group of Enamorados to Victorville to protest an incident that had occurred in the parking lot outside Ray Moore Stadium in the immediate aftermath of a football game between Victor Valley and Big Bear high schools the evening of September 22 when a sheriff’s deputy was videotaped slamming a 16-year-old girl, Faith Jeffers, a student at Victor Valley High, as the deputy and one of his colleagues sought to break up a fight that had broken out between Jeffers and another girl.
The protesters rallied in the area around the Victorville Sheriff’s Station on Amargosa Road near Palmdale Road. With his trademark bullhorn in hand, Edin Enamorado led a party of roughly 40 Enamorados, most of them from lower San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County, as they carried placards calling for justice and paraded in the vicinity of the sheriff’s station and along the highly visible stretch of Palmdale Road between Amargosa Road and McArt Road. 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 two of the Enamorados – David Chávez, 27, of Riverside, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a caustic chemical and unlawful assembly along with Wendy Luján, 40, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a caustic chemical, obstructing a peace officer, battery and unlawful assembly – into custody at that time along with two other protesters, 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 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 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.
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 sought to 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 on October 24 and November 14 to register their objections, 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.
At both meetings, Hispanic entrepreneurs based in Fontana, including members of the Latino Small Business Alliance were present to voice support for the ordinance and the impound fee. Some of those who spoke at the October 24 meeting were subjected to threats and intimidation by a few of the Enamorados when they left the speaker’s podium to return to where they were sitting in the gallery. This prompted some of those who returned on November 14 to decline to provide their names when addressing the council in support of the impound fee out of fear of retribution.
On October 24, after the crowd had been excluded from the council chamber prior to the council’s vote, Edin Enamorado rallied with several of those present in the City Hall parking lot and directed them to accompany him to the 14200 block of Lauramore Court in northern Fontana where Mayor Warren lived, whereupon they marched up and down the block between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., awaiting Warren’s arrival, with Enamorado using his trademark bullhorn to regale Warren’s neighbors with a lecture about what a racist community Fontana is. When Warren, driving her Mercedes-Benz, arrived home, she quickly ducked inside to a void a physical confrontation. The police arrived shortly thereafter and after having a patrol car make its way in one direction and then back on Lauramore Court informing those assembled that theirs had been declared an unlawful assembly, prompting most there to take their leave, a group of at least seven officers in riot gear emerged from a SWAT van, marching abreast down the street to usher any remaining stragglers out of the neighborhood. When Edin Enamorado and another individual, described as his bodyguard, did not depart, they were taken into custody and booked into the West Valley Detention Center at 11:26 p.m. on disturbing the peace charges. Edin Enamorado was cite released the next morning at 8:48 a.m.
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.
At the November 14 Fontana City Council meeting, a large number of Enamorados turned out, with several making an effort to identify those among the Latinos present who were there to support rather than oppose the adoption of impound fee. Those so identified were derided with the slur “coconut,” signifying that they were brown on the outside but white on the inside. Several were threatened with physical violence.
Also on the agenda to be considered at the November 24 meeting were multiple land use decisions, including four warehouse projects. Disruptions throughout hearing for the impound fee proposal prompted Warren to again exclude the public from the council chamber prior to the council discussion and vote, by which the imposition of the fee was approved. The council adjourned that portion of the meeting pertaining to the land use issues until the next morning at 7:30, which resulted in large numbers of those who had hoped to weigh in on those issues to have to forego doing so.
Edin Enamorado was arrested in Apple Valley on December 10 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.
The way in which he and the Enamorados had been able to carry off their protests in Rancho Cucamonga at Peelman’s home and in Upland around the homes of Peelman’s defenders, that he had avoided arrest in Victorville on September 24 and that he had been cite released after only brie incarcerations following his two arrests in Fontana on October 24 and November 15 and Apple Valley on December 10 lulled Edin Enamorado into a state of complacency, instilling in him a belief that he and the Enamorados would be able to effectuate in San Bernardino County the same brand of societal reform he had come to pride himself as carrying out in Los Angeles County, doing so with impunity, or relative impunity, as the arrests followed by a cite release without any prosecutorial follow-up were little more than a temporary nuisance to him. Relatively shortly after the Victorville protest, one of the Enamorados who was present and had participated in the assault on the Hyundai passenger, Guillet Acevedo, contacted Enamorado, telling him he thought he should take down the video, given that law enforcement might be monitoring the websites and social media accounts he controlled in the aftermath of the arrests of Chávez, Luján, Alba and Freeman. Shortly thereafter, Chávez, who was facing possible charges at that point over his arrest on September 24, texted Enamorado, “Hey bro, could you take down the video. It’s incriminating me.”
Enamorado responded by making several passes at editing the video, cutting out the passages which depicted the gross violence against someo0ne who was, in essence, a bystander, and altering the video and its context to emphasize the righteousness of the protest against the physical abuse of Jeffers and the aggressive reaction of the deputies who responded to the protesters’ confrontation with the Hyundai driver and passenger at the car wash.
Acevedo’s and Chávez’s requests and Enamorado’s reaction came too late. Sheriff’s Department investigators had already begun monitoring the Enamorados social media postings and communications, had ascertained that Enamorado was their leader, were giving him especially close scrutiny and had begun to secure copies of the videos and other materials that were being uploaded to various websites and social media accounts. Those materials would form the partial basis of warrants the investigators would obtain, which led to further discoveries. While other Enamorados, the adherents to their philosophy, their followers and those who saw Edin Enamorado as a hero and a champion of society’s outcasts looked at many of those videos and saw him and his compadres bravely standing up to the bullies, bigots and abusers who had their jackboots on the throats of the sidewalk vendors, the investigators and the deputy prosecutors they were networking with saw prima facie and undeniable evidence of the Enamorados engaging in physical assaults.
Armed with the information they were gleaning from the various postings the Enamorados were making, the investigators gathered a gradually wider and taller window on the activities the group was engaged in. The investigators reached out to other law enforcement agencies that had contact with the Enamorados and Edin Enamorado in particular, including those in San Diego, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Moorpark, Pomona, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Upland, Fontana and Riverside, as well as the sheriff’s department’s own stations in Rancho Cucamonga and Apple Valley.
Simultaneously, the search warrants the investigators obtained allowed them to access and pore over records of phone contacts, text messages and eventually emails and other communications between the Enamorados. It was apparent that Edin Enamorado and to a lesser extent Wendy Luján were the coordinators of the group’s various activities, and that virtually all of the group’s members responded to calls to action, going to where Enamorado and Luján vectored them.
The September 24 event in Victorville had triggered the investigation. When San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant of Detectives Tony Romero and Detective Alejandro Duran had sought from cellular providers data on the Enamorados’ phone contacts and text messages, they arbitrarily set September 1 as the date back to which they requested the information. As it turned out, the Pomona Police Department had passed along that the Enamorados were involved in two separate incidents and a what appeared to be a related contact with the department on September 3. Cross-referencing the phone activity of Enamorados, the investigators learned that Edin Enamorado had gone from his residence in Upland to Pomona early in the day, had returned to Upland and once more returned to Pomona, at which point both of the assaults the Enamorados had engaged in that day took place.
By November, investigators had identified eight Enamorados they had established as having engaged in some order of violence during public protests, demonstrations and activities carried out to “protect” street vendors, and by December were constantly tracking their whereabouts in real time, using the global position data on their cell phones. Assembling the cases they felt could be made against Enamorado, Luján and the six others, the sheriff’s department obtained arrest warrants, which they served in the early morning of December 14. At 3:20 a.m. Fernando López, 44, was taken into custody at 3560 East Gage Avenue in Bell. Enamorado, 36, and Luján were arrested at 3:55 a.m. at the apartment they shared at 1610 West Arrow Route in Upland. David Chávez, 28, who had been arrested previously by the department along with Luján on September 24 in Victorville, was arrested at his residence located at 3863 Del Air Street in Riverside. At 4:08 a.m., Vanessa Carrasco, 40, was arrested at her 742 West Sunkist Street residence in Ontario. At 4:10 a.m., sheriff’s deputies took Gullit Eder Acevedo, 30, into custody at his domicile at 2855 Fremontia Drive in San Bernardino. Stephanie Amésquita, 33, was arrested at her 1936 Magnolia Avenue address in San Bernardino at 4:22 a.m. At 4:46 a.m., sheriff’s deputies took Edwin Peña, 26, into custody at 1809 West 11th Street Unit 310 in Los Angeles.
All eight were jailed without being eligible for bail release and Judge Shannon Faherty at their December 18 arraignment refused to release any of them on their own recognizance nor discontinue the no bail hold they are under.
Upon being arraigned, the seven charges Enamorado was arrested on were upped to 16; the two charges used to justify Luján’s arrest were increased to 14; Chávez’s three counts likewise were expanded to 14, Carrasco’s three charges became 14 Acevedo three, López, arrested on three charges, saw nine added to bring the total number of counts to a dozen; Amésquita’s two charges morphed to nine, Peña’s three charges became 14 and Acevedo was accused at arraignment with participating no just in the three he had been arrested on but four. All eight, in addition to other charges, were charged with conspiracy, under the theory that in going to the three places – two in Pomona and one in Victorville – where the assaults took place, coordinated ahead of time to go there.
The arrests and the revelation of the charges prompted reactions from the Enamorados’ defenders to the effect that prosecutors were criminalizing protest and constitutionally permitted activities. Moreover, when it was revealed that two of the three incidents involved had taken place in Pomona, those defenders cried foul in that the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s authority did not extend across the county line.
All eight were initially represented by Christian Contreras. He was substituted out by all of the defendants except Luján.
Meanwhile, their supporters put up money of their own and sought donations from the public at large to bankroll the defense for what was soon billed as “The Justice Eight.” Enamorado was able to retain Nicolas Rosenberg. Representing Lujan was Christian Contreras. Chávez’s attorney was Edwin S Salguero Arsany Said represented Peña. Defense Counsel Dan Eugene Chambers represented Gullit “Jaguar” Acevedo. Damon Alimouri represented Carrasco. Erick Hammett represented López. Amesquita was reprsented by Mauro Quintero.
At a pre-pretrial hearing before Judge Melissa Rodriguez on December 26, the no-bail hold was continued for all eight but at the pretrial hearing on December 28, Judge Rodriguez consented to granting Acevedo alone in the amount of $40,000, conditional upon his wearing an electronic ankle monitor, having no direct or indirect contact with his seven co-defendants, having no access to social media and engaging in no social media posting, having no contact with any of the alleged victims in the case, their families, homes or workplaces and possessing no weapons or explosive devices.
Once the preliminary hearing had begun in earnest before Judge Zahara Arredondo , the prosecution called Pomona Police Detective Travis Johnson, Pomona Police Officer Edgar Rodriguez, Pomona Police Officer Juan Ruiz, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Valencia, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Ortega, prosecution witness Blake Foyle, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Detective Alejandro Duran, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Detective Eric Rebollar.
During the preliminary hearing, District Attorney Jason Wilkinson and Deputy District Attorney John Richardson elicited from Johnson, Rodriguez, Ruiz, Valencia, Ortega, Foyle, Duran and Rebollar testimony to provide an outline of the case fleshed out with enough detail to convince Judge Arredondo that there is sufficient grounds to proceed to trial all eight of the defendants.
According to the Wilkinson/Richardson narrative as related by those witnesses and snippets of both video and text evidence the investigators have accumulated, in early September, after Edin Enamorado learned that a security guard at El Super Market at the northeast corner of Indian Hill Avenue and Holt Boulevard in Pomona had a confrontation with some street vendors there, he appealed to his followers on social media to find out who he was. On the morning of September 3, Enamorado traveled from his residence in Upland to the Pomona Police Department headquarters located within the Pomona Civic Center to demand that the department take action against the security guard, who was identified by investigators as “John Doe 1.” Enamorado livestreamed that exchange with two police officers outside the entrance to the police station lobby, during which he was critical of the department’s failure to arrest the security guard, to his Instagram channel. In that video, Enamorado tells the police, in the midst of assailing them for not dealing with the security guard that “We’ll be holding him accountable.” That video was presented as evidence during the preliminary hear.
After that exchange with the officers, Enamorado returned to Upland, according to testimony, where, at 2:43 p.m., he received a message from an individual identified as “Big Guppy 420” who was apparently monitoring El Super.
“He’s here,” Big Guppy 420 related to Enamorado, who responded, “I’m on my way.” While he was yet in Upland, Enamorado phoned Luján ast 2:45 p.m. and arrangements were made to alert the other Enamorados that the security guard – John Doe 1 – was at El Super and that they should go there at once, according to testimony and evidence presented. Video footage of the confrontation between the Enamorados and John Doe 1, extrapolated both from videos the Enamorados had recorded and later posted to social media and security video from El Super, was presented in court. On one of the videos made by the Enamorados, one of them can be heard saying “Spray his dumb ass.”
Another video passage, taken inside El Super, shows the security guard on the sprawled on the floor, blinded by pepper spray. He manages to get to his feet, mak his way toward one of the store’s cash registers, where three of the Enamorados are kicking him and raining blows down upon him.
Defense attorneys countered that evidence with a video provided in which John Doe 1 is in his vehicle, surrounded Enamorados. As he is being challenged, he guns the accelerator, driving off quickly. According to the defense, as he did so, he used a spray device of his own, a pepper gun, which he fired at Edin Enamorado out the open passenger side window.
According to the prosecution, after the mid-afternoon September 3 incident between the Enamorados and the security guard, Pomona Police arrived and arrested Luján. Thereupon, the Enamorados sojourned to the Pomona Police headquarters to object to her arrest and get her out of custody. A Pomona resident, identified as John Doe 2, came to the police station, intending to file an unrelated police report. Unbeknownst to any of those there – both the Enamorados and the Pomona resident – the police station was shuttered day because of the Labor Day holiday. The resident, unable to get into the police headquarters lobby because of the protesters milling about in front of the station, perceived his inability to file the report he had come to make was because police personnel had locked the entrance because of the protest. Words were exchanged between the resident and some of Enamorados. When John Doe 2 went back to his car, he was accompanied by several of the Enamorados. Further words were exchanged, and the resident threw an open Gatorade bottle at them as he was about to drive off. The Enamorados mistakenly took the liquid in the bottle to be urine. Edin Enamorado told one of the Enamorados to determine where John Doe 2 lived. The resident lived roughly a mile from the Pomona Civic Center and shortly after his place of residence was determined, someone can be overheard on Edin Enamorado’s livestream video of the protest outside the police station say that they were going to John Doe 2’s home. About half of the Enamorados engaged in the protest peeled off and went to the man’s home. There they found him seated in his vehicle.
Enamorado challenged him to fight. Someone else could be heard on one of the videos of that confrontation telling John Doe 2 “I will beat you every day if you don’t get out of the car.” When he did get out of the vehicle, John Doe was forced to his knees, where he groveled before his tormentors, pleading with them not to harm him.
According to prosecutors, the Enamorados engaged in multiple threats to inflict great bodily harm upon John Doe 2, which were capped by Carrasco humiliating him yet further by implying that they could have easily killed him. “We let you live,” Detective Duran quoted Carrasco as telling him.
Prosecutors presented a stills from a video showing Enamorado, accompanied by Luján, showing him firing a gun at a shooting range.
Rosenberg, Enamorado’s defense attorney, acknowledged that prosecutors had succeeded in previewing evidence that was damaging to the defendants, some more than others, with his client having been the one most seriously maligned by the evidence and testimony put on the record by the prosecution, including video of Enamorado physically assaulting John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 and testimony that he was challenging John Doe 2 to a fight. Nevertheless, the defense was able to bring critical scrutiny to portions of the prosecution narrative and undercut some of the evidence, while bringing into question or outrightdisproving other elements of the case.
The defense’s most compelling of evidence and testimony to contradict the prosecution was that which pertained to Gulitt Acevedo, known as Jaguar. He is prominently seen in the videos of the assault of John Doe 3, the passenger who exits from the Hyundai while his wife at the wheel is unable to drive the car out of the car wash parking lot because of the constant stream of protesters on the sidewalk in front of her. It is not in dispute that Acevedo was in Victorville on September 24. Prosecutors had also alleged that he had been in Pomona on September 3 and had taken part in the violence perpetrated against John Doe 1 and John Doe 2.
Acevedo’s attorney, Dan Chambers, however was able to convincingly controvert three primary allegations against his client and substantially ameliorate a fourth. Chambers presented virtually unassailable evidence that Acevedo was not in Pomona or Los Angeles County on September 3 but rather in Santa Ana in Orange County. Moreover, Chambers successfully divorced his client from the allegation that he had pepper sprayed John Doe or that he had been present to surround and therefore falsely imprison John Doe 2. Indeed, Chambers credibly argued, Acevedo had not used, possessed, received, owned or purchased any pepper spray, mace, tear gas or chemical agent.
As a consequence three of the four counts against Acevedo – those pertaining to his participation in the conspiracies to assault John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 were dropped. And Chambers was able to convince Judge Arredondo that Acevedo had not so much accosted John Doe 3 but gotten into a scuffle with him, such that it was appropriate to reduce the Penal Code 245(A)(4)-F charge, pertaining to assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, a felony, to Penal Code 245(a)(4)-M, misdemeanor assault, in that what Acevedo did was unlikely to result in great bodily injury.
Acevedo was already the defendant with the fewest charges against him and had already been granted bail release by Judge Rodriguez. The dismissal of all of the charges against him but the reduced assault count prompted Judge Arredondo to but him on a separate track from the rest of the defendants, so that he is not to be tried with them. Instead, he is scheduled to have his case heard separately by Judge Enrique Guerrero in Victorville Department 6.
Duran said that the investigative team had spent well in excess of 1,000 man-hours examining between 5,000 to 10,000 text messages between the defendants. Several of the defense attorneys pressed Duran as the lead detective on the case as to whether any planning among the defendants to assault any the defendants took place in advance during their phone messaging. Duran said the messages examined did not contain any such explicit discussions.
The defense attorneys dwelt upon the charge of conspiracy that had been lodged against the defendants, noting that Edin Enamorado had livestreamed the encounters and that he had some 200,000 followers on Instagram. They sought from him whether he considered the openness with which they acted to be consistent with the secrecy or stealth that normally attends a conspiracy.
Duran was also grilled about the suggestion made by Sheriff Dicus at the December 14 press conference that Edin Enamorado’s objective in making his social media postings was to generate income. Rosenberg and one of the other defense attorneys asked about Enamorado’s move to “demonetize” his YouTube channel, implying that the social media postings were not producing a revenue stream for the Enamorados generally or Enamorado specifically. Duran acknowledged having no specific information about the profitability of the Enamorados’ efforts.
Contreras induced from Duran a concession that Luján did not get close to John Doe 2 and that there was no evidence, video or otherwise, that she assaulted John Doe 1 or John Doe 2.
Rosenberg sought to obtain from the law enforcement witnesses acknowledgments that those represented by the prosecution as victims in the case – John Doe 1, John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 – had acted or reacted unreasonably, aggressively, provocatively or illegally, despite having to present exhibits or evidence in doing so that demonstrated the Enamorados acting equally or more aggressively or provocatively.
Most particularly, Rosenberg was harshest in his characterization of John Doe 1, whom he referenced as a “liar,” prior to playing an en extended passage of a video taken of John Doe 1 in a confrontation with a street vendor that took place near the Pomona El Super without the presence of the Enamorados at some point prior to the September 3 incident. That video did not depict, as John Doe 1 had claimed, according to Rosenberg, that the security guard had been choked. Nor did other video snippets of John Doe 1 in his clashes with the Enamorados capture any use racial epithets by the Enamorados toward the security guard, who is African American. Duran indicated that the security guard was himself armed with pepper spray and that he might have used it. Duran, nevertheless, in reference to the selective presentation of the evidence and video exhibits, did not concede that John Doe 1 had been untruthful in his statements to investigators. Nor did Duran confirm with any of his answers Rosenberg’s postulation that John Doe 1 had himself used the September 3 incident to generate money for himself through either social media postings or employment enhancement.
Duran deflected Rosenberg’s suggestions that John Doe 3 had brought the beating he was given during the September 24 encounter in Victorville upon himself by his own aggressive action as he emerged from the Hyundai and thereafter by stating that what he saw in the video was the man assuming “a defensive posture” in the face of being assailed by no fever than a half dozen protesters.
“The actions of these groups, despite their message, tear at the fabric of our society,” according to San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Jason Wilkinson.
The surrounding of the vehicles and forcing the victims to different locations than where they willingly wanted to go constituted kidnapping and/or false imprisonment, according to Wilkinson. Edin Enamorado’s call or instructions to the others to go to the locations where the violent acts occurred followed by the arrival of the Enamorados at those places in one demonstration that a conspiracy had taken place, Wilkinson stated. Furthermore, Enamorado’s request that other Enamorados determine the whereabouts or find the home address of John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, the Enamorados then complying by producing that information, after which that information was acted upon by the perpetration of violence against those victims is a further indication of the conspiracy, according to Wilkinson.
Alimouri, Carrasco’s attorney, contested the characterization of what had taken place as a conspiracy, saying that the violence that was exhibited against John Doe 1 at El Super and John Doe 2 at his home was spontaneous rather than premeditated.
While stating, “I am very sensitive to any kind of discrimination against street vendors” and that she disliked “any discrimination against anyone,” Judge Arredondo said she could “not disregard what has been heard and seen at this hearing. I hold everyone accountable.”
Arredondo said she found the treatment the Enamorodos accorded John Doe 2, in which he was surrounded, ordered out of his car, allegedly assaulted and forced to make an apology, to be particularly egregious. “That’s one of the most offensive things that can happen to a person,” Judge Arredondo said.
With regard to Edin Enamorado, Judge Arredondo granted Rosenberg’s motion to dismiss two of the sixteen counts against him, one of the three Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property, based on the district attorney’s office proffering insufficient evidence to prove them. She held Enamorado to answer on charges of PC182(A)(1)-felony conspiracy to commit a crime; two charges of PC422(A) – felony threats to engage in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; three counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; PC207(A) – felony kidnapping; three counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; two counts of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas; one count of PC22810(A) – misdemeanor possession of tear gas by a convicted felon; and one count of PC29800(A)(1) – felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Judge Arredondo granted Contreras’s motion to dismiss one of the three Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property against Luján, based on the district attorney’s office proffering insufficient evidence to prove those charges. She held Luján to answer on charges of PC182(A)(1)-felony conspiracy to commit a crime; two counts of PC422(A) – felony threats to engage in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; three counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; PC207(A) – felony kidnapping; three counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; and two counts of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas.
Judge Arredondo granted Salguero’s motion to dismiss one of the two Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and the PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property charge against Chávez, but held him over to answer to PC182(A)(1) – felony conspiracy to commit a crime; two counts of PC422(A) – felony threats to engage in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; three counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; PC207(A) – felony kidnapping; three counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; and two counts of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas.
Judge Arredondo granted Quinteros’s motion to dismiss one of the two Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and the PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property charge against Amesquita. Judge Arredondo rejected another motion by Quintero to reduce one of the charges against Amesquita, assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury from a felony to simple misdemeanor assault. The judge held Amesquita to answer for PC182(A)(1)-felony conspiracy to commit a crime; PC422(A) – felony threats to engage in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; two counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; two counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; and one count of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas.
Judge Arredondo granted Hammett’s motion to dismiss one of the two Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and the PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property charge against López, but otherwise held López to answer for PC182(A)(1)-felony conspiracy to commit a crime; two counts of PC422(A) – felony threats to engage in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; two counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; PC207(A) – felony kidnapping; two counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; one count of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas; and one count of PC22810(A)- misdemeanor possession of tear gas by a convicted felon.
Judge Arredondo granted Alimouri’s motion to dismiss one of the two Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and the PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property charge against Carrasco, while simultaneously holding her to answer for PC182(A)(1)-felony conspiracy to commit a crime; two counts of PC422(A)- felony threats to engage in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; three counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; PC207(A) – felony kidnapping; three counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; and two counts of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas.
Judge Arredondo granted Said’s motion to dismiss one of the two Penal Code [PC] 22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas charges and the PC594(B)(1)- felony vandalism involving $400 or more worth of property charge against Peña. Peña was yet held to answer for PC182(A)(1)-felony conspiracy to commit a crime; two counts of PC422(A)- felony threats of engaging in criminal action likely to result in death or great bodily injury; three counts of PC236 – felony false imprisonment; PC207(A) – felony kidnapping; three counts of PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; and two counts of PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas.
Enamorado, Luján, Chávez, Amesquita, López, Carrasco, Peña are set for arraignment on the information and charges sustained by Judge Arredondo on January 19 at 8:30 a.m. in Victorville Department 4 before Judge Debra Harris, who is scheduled at this point to oversee their trial collectively.
Judge Arredondo granted Chambers’ motion to dismiss the PC182(A)(1) – felony conspiracy to commit a crime; the PC22810(G)(1) – felony unlawful use of tear gas and PC236 – felony false imprisonment charges against Acevedo, entering a ruling that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on those counts. Judge Arredondo further granted Chambers’ motion to reduce or modify the PC245(a)(4) – felony assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury to PC245(a)(4)- misdemeanor assault. Acevedo immediately entered a not guilty plea to the reduced charge. Judge Arredondo continued Acevedo’s bail release and terminated the requirement that he submit to global position system monitoring in the form of an ankle bracelet. He is to be tried separately from the other seven defendants and is set for a pretrial hearing on January 17 in Victorville Department 6 before Judge Enrique Guerrero.
Judge Arredondo continued the court’s previous finding there is “clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the protection of the public safety” if Enamorado, Luján, Chávez, Amesquita, López, Carrasco, Peña were to be released either singly or collectively and that “there are no less restrictive means to protect the public.” She denied the motions of Rosenberg, Contreras, Salguero Quintero, Hammett, Alimouri and Said that Enamorado, Luján, Chávez, Amesquita, López, Carrasco, Peña be granted bail or recognizance release. The combination of Judge Arredondo’s decision to sustain the lion’s share of the charges as filed and deny the seven bail, coming at the end of a nearly three-week long preliminary hearing process combined with what the court minutes characterized as “boisterous statements on the record” by “defense counsel” for Carrasco, i.e., Alimouri, provoked an outpouring of short-lived rage within the courtroom, which was packed with the Enamorados’ supporters. The court minutes described Alimour’s comments as “causing commotion with defendants and commotion with the audience. Defense first objects to waiting for a Bail O[wn] R[ecognizance], then withdraws objection. Defense counsel reserve on the Bail O.R. Motion and request to trail matter to the next hearing date.”
Enamorado, who had managed for most of the weeks-long hearing to hold his well-recognized temper in check, thundered “This is not fair. Even the murderers get out on bail!”
Unstated in court was the consideration that the investigators with the sheriff’s office, through the use of undercover operatives and deals they have cut with other Enamorados whose activities have been investigated but who have not at this stage been criminally charged, are continuing to investigate the defendants’ actions relating to further potential charges. Releasing any of the defendants at this point would potentially subject the Enamorados who are cooperating with authorities to interference that would compromise the investigation.
Judge Arredondo’s ruling with regard to the seven defendants who will go to trial in front of Judge Harris represented a setback for them on multiple levels. Judge Arredondo was a deputy public defender with the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office for fifteen years before she was elevated to the bench by Governor Gavin Newsom last year. As such it was thought she would be more inclined toward skepticism with regard to the prosecution’s case than had been either of the other two magistrates involved, Judge Faherty and Judge Rodriguez, both of whom were former deputy prosecutors. In particular, some thought it was possible that Judge Arredondo would either dismiss those aspects of the case stemming from the action that occurred across the county line in Pomona, as there was and perhaps remains a question as to San Bernardino County Superior Court being the proper venue for crimes or alleged crimes committed outside the county. During the preliminary hearing, Arredondo indulged the prosecution theory that the phone contact that took place between Edin Enamorado while he was in Upland, which is within San Bernardino County, and the other Enamorados in encouraging them to meet up with him in Pomona, where the planned encounter with John Doe 1 and the unplanned encounter with John Doe 2 occurred, constituted acts in furtherance of a conspiracy, providing an important part of the framework for the case. Her ruling to allow the conspiracy charges to stand against seven of the eight defendants has perpetuated a huge portion of the case that the Enamorados on trial, their defense attorneys and their supporters thought might be thrown out.
The defense attorneys and Rosenberg in particular were banking on the events that had transpired in Pomona be deemed outside of San Bernardino County Superior Court’s jurisdiction and therefore being dismissed entirely or transferred to the Pomona Courthouse for trial. Thereafter, because of limitations on court space in Pomona and the anticipated length and intensity of the trial, it was thought that a change of venue to the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles would provide a far more favorable setting for the defendants than San Bernardino County and Victorville in particular.
Judge Arredondo’s ruling was thus disappointing to the defense attorneys for the seven and her remarks about the humiliation of John Doe 2 at the hands of the Enamorados more troubling still.
Rosenberg has indicated that a request to change the venue to Los Angeles County is yet to be forthcoming.
Chambers, the one attorney of the eight representing the Enamorados who was able to make substantial inroads in the case against his client, cited what he called “sloppy” investigative work by the detectives handling the case as a primary reason for Acevedo being arrested charged in the first place and then having three of the four charges lodged against him thrown out and the remaining charge reduced.
“They tried to rope my client into this conspiracy, and it fell flat,” Chambers, a former prosecutor, said. “There was no evidence to connect him to Pomona because he was nowhere near Pomona on September 3. There was no evidence to connect him to the others who were in Pomona. He never had pepper spray.”
Chambers said that change of venue motions “almost never succeed.”
He said the matter will likely proceed to trial in Victorville and that in order to defend the case, the defense attorneys will need to engage in astute lawyering “on the facts” to illustrate to the jury that the investigators are engaged in “overreach and taking a shotgun approach.”