Anti-immigrant violence in San Diego

Although the group says it disavows violence, more than one criminal case related to the San Diego Minutemen is now pending in the California courts. In one case now coming to trial, John Monti of Bellflower, a Los Angeles suburb, is charged with seven misdemeanors, including three counts each of battery and interfering with a person’s civil rights, stemming from an incident linked to the Minutemen. Monti, who drove down to San Diego from the LA area for a Minutemen protest in November 2006, reportedly harassed, threatened and provoked a physical confrontation with a group of day laborers lined up at the intersection of Rancho Penasquitos Boulevard and Carmel Mountain Road. Monti told police the laborers threatened him when he started taking their photo with a digital camera. Jeff Schwilk, founder of the San Diego Minutemen, issued a statement saying Monti is not a member of any Minutemen groups. (KGTV, San Diego, Sept. 19)

In a related case, Fernando Guardado of Fallbrook, a San Diego suburb, may face arrest after he failed to appear in court Sept. 20 for his arraignment on a battery charge in connection with an altercation with a Minutemen protester. Reached by phone around noon, Guardado said he did not know prosecutors had charged him or that he was supposed to be in court that morning. Reporters determined that two numbers of the address were transposed on the letter sent to Guardado informing him of the arraignment date.

The charge stems from an incident July 14 outside St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Fallbrook, a hiring site for day laborers. The Minutemen have held several rallies near the church to oppose the hiring site. About 20 protesters waving American flags and picket signs were present July 14. Dozens of Palomar College students and immigrants’ rights activists who supported the church’s day-labor site also were there.

Guardado and the alleged victim, Cedric Kiani Garcia of Vista, disagree about what happened outside the church that day when Garcia said something about a cracked windshield in the Guardado family’s SUV. Garcia said outside court Sept. 20 that Guardado, a passenger in the vehicle, “erupted,” got out of the SUV, grabbed for Garcia’s camera and struck him on the nose. Guardado, a parishioner at the church, said in a telephone interview that he never hit Garcia. (North County Times, Sept. 21)

Meanwhile, other anti-immigrant militias are moving towards outright terrorism.

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown, the Minutemen and the radical right.

  1. Healthy Distrust of SDPD
    Anti-illegal immigration group files complaint against San Diego Police

    By: SARAH WILKINS – Staff Writer

    SAN DIEGO —- A member of an anti-illegal immigration group filed a complaint with the San Diego County grand jury Thursday in response to what he described as a failure by the San Diego Police Department to adequately respond to an incident of prostitution and human trafficking in migrant camps near McGonigle Canyon, an area where hundreds of migrant workers were evicted last year.

    However, police Capt. Boyd Long said that a recent investigation and surveillance of the rural area between Rancho Penasquitos and Carmel Valley produced no evidence of prostitution or trafficking.

    The complaint, filed by Los Angeles resident John Monti of the anti-illegal immigration group Save Our State, calls for the investigation of an incident reported the afternoon of Dec. 2. Officers responding to reports of prostitutes brought into the canyon allegedly refused to investigate an area where the alleged sex workers were reportedly seen with about a dozen male migrant workers. According to the complaint, which names two police officers and two police captains as defendants, the alleged prostitutes were “obviously underage.”

    “These officers refused to look for the girls other than take a cursory look around the area and said it was impossible to prove prostitution,” the complaint states. “They even refused to question the two men (pimps?) standing near the sex areas.”

    San Diego Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk, who said he witnessed and filmed the incident, said the officers “did not even seem interested … and said it was hard to prove prostitution unless (you see) a money exchange.”

    “We don’t feel the Police Department handled this properly,” Schwilk said, adding that his group searched the area in an effort to find the men and alleged prostitutes. The group found a backpack containing such items as toilet paper and condoms that belonged to one of the women, he said.

    Monti said in an interview Thursday night that he filed the grand jury complaint because police officials he spoke to were largely unresponsive.

    “I think (filing the complaint) is the most effective way,” he said, adding that he had been told an internal investigation would take place. “There’s not that many other avenues to be effective.”

    Monti arrived at McGonigle Canyon about an hour after the alleged incident began, and based the complaint on his observations, video recorded by members of the San Diego Minutemen and conversations with Minutemen members, he said.

    Long, of the San Diego Police Department’s northern division, said that he did not have information specific to the Dec. 2 allegations, but police conducted surveillance and undercover operations weeks after that date in response to complaints.

    The area where the alleged incident took place was investigated by the department’s vice unit and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s human trafficking unit, and no evidence —- including “telltale” signs such as ripped underwear, nylons or condom wrappers —- was ever found indicating the crimes took place, Long said.

    “We set up a survey area and found no evidence of human trafficking or prostitution,” he said.

    For two years, the department has had two “migrant liaison” officers who patrol the area and respond to issues there, and “never once was human trafficking (reported) going on,” he said. No arrests have been made in connection to prostitution in the area, Long added.

    Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for the federal immigration office in San Diego, said that sex crimes have not been reported recently in McGonigle Canyon, and a lone incident reported just over a year ago was unsubstantiated.

    Investigation of alleged sex crimes includes identifying victims, including age and nationality, as well as looking for links to organized crime and tracing money traded in the crime, Mack said.

    “No. 1 is finding out whether lives are in danger, if (victims) are sex slaves,” Mack said.

    Achieving solutions to problems in migrant communities is “not as quick as we’d like it to be, not as quick as the public would like to see,” Long said, adding that residents should call police and not “take it upon themselves to remove the camps.” However, law enforcement officials must “look responsibly in a logical fashion” in approaching problems, or migrants will simply move to another location, Long said.

    Chuck Martin, an assistant to the coordinator of the county grand jury, said the office does not comment on complaints or investigations.

    However, once a letter of complaint is received, it must be reviewed by “appropriate committees” to determine whether the case will be taken up by the jury, Martin said. The process can take up to five weeks, he added.

    The county grand jury does not conduct criminal investigations or hand down indictments. It does investigate citizen complaints about government agencies in the county and look into issues grand jurors raise about local governing bodies.

    The panel prepares written reports about its investigations and recommends changes for the agencies. State law requires agencies involved to file responses to the grand jury’s reports, but the grand jury has no formal power to enforce its recommendations.

    Contact staff writer Sarah Wilkins at (760) 761-4414 or