Synagogue Shooter Pleads Guilty, Will Serve Life in Prison

John T. Earnest, 22, pleaded guilty today to murder and other charges in San Diego Superior Court in connection with a deadly shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue two years ago. There were 54 people inside the synagogue when Earnest entered the lobby and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on April 27, 2019. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the attack. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot in both hands, causing him to lose an index finger, and Noya D., then 8, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, were wounded.

Earnest pleaded guilty to the willful, deliberate, premeditated murder of Ms. Kaye, and the willful, deliberate, and premeditated attempted murder of Rabbi Goldstein, Almog Peretz, and Noya D. Earnest admitted that he committed those crimes because of his bias and hatred of Jews, and he admitted that he personally discharged a firearm causing death and great bodily injury. He also pleaded guilty to the arson at the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque for the purpose of terrorizing Muslim worshipers.

Earnest agreed to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 121 years-to-life and 16 years in state prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for September 30, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Department 2104 downtown.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office released the following statement:

“While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends and the wider community. After consulting with the Kaye family and the many victims impacted by the shooting, the decision to accept a plea of life in prison was made in the interest of justice and with the knowledge that a parallel prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and possible plea in that case would prevent the state’s case from moving forward. This plea ensures the defendant is held accountable for his crimes under California state law.”

Earnest Prosecution Timeline:

  • Crime occurred on April 27, 2019.
  • Arraigned on state charges on April 30, 2019.
  • Arraigned on federal charges on May 14, 2019.
  • Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement on June 4, 2021 for consideration by federal prosecutors.
  • Deadline for federal prosecutors to announce a decision regarding the death penalty is August 30, 2021.
  • Earnest is next due in federal court on September 8, 2021.
  • Sentencing on state charges set for September 30, 2021.
Gavel & Open Law Book

Three Charged with Murder of Marijuana Dispensary Guard

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that three defendants have been charged with murder in connection with the deadly shooting of a security guard at an illegal Spring Valley marijuana dispensary last year. Kenneth Love, 59, was shot and killed on June 2, 2020 at an illegal dispensary in the 8700 block of Troy Street. The shooting was tied into a broader scheme to extort the illegal dispensaries for money. After an exhaustive investigation by San Diego Sheriff’s Homicide detectives and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, three defendants were arrested for Love’s murder.

Two additional defendants have also been charged in connection with the scheme to rob and extort money from illegal dispensaries. If the extortion money was not paid, the defendants used threats and violence to intimidate ownership. The crime spree is responsible for other Spring Valley area shootings in July 2019 and November 2019. Two of the defendants are gang members who reside in the Los Angeles area and the third is a San Diego man associated with a local gang.

“This case demonstrates how violent gang crime knows no borders and criminals will exploit any opportunity, such as marijuana dispensaries operating illegally, to make money,” said District Attorney Stephan. “Law enforcement never gave up on finding the murderers and our team will continue to seek justice for Mr. Love’s family and friends through this prosecution. Extraordinary cooperation among our investigative partners from several local, county and national agencies led to these arrests.”

Daveon Dajuan Hicks Sr., 30, Curry James Williams Jr., 29, and Jamal Johnson, 41, have all been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit extortion and other offenses related to the Spring Valley shootings. Adrian Kasey Batten, 36 was charged with conspiracy to commit extortion and other offenses related to the Spring Valley shootings. Jester Ramos, 28, has been charged with attempted robbery and shooting at an occupied building.

On June 23, 2021 the victim’s loved ones joined community members, and Sheriff’s personnel from Homicide and deputies and Senior Volunteer Patrol from the Rancho San Diego Station at the First Baptist Church of Spring Valley to hand out flyers asking people with information about the murder to come forward.

“I want to thank the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit, as well as detectives with the Rancho San Diego Sheriff’s Station, and the Violent Crimes Task Force for continuously working this case for more than a year to find answers in the murder of Kenneth Love,” said Sheriff William Gore. “We are also grateful to the public for submitting tips when we made renewed calls for new information. This is an example of how law enforcement and community collaboration can hold criminals accountable for their actions.”

In the spring of 2021, the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force joined the Sheriff’s Homicide investigation and had a sizable contingent in Los Angeles for arrests that occurred on July 1.

“Last week’s arrests bring a conclusion to this chapter of an investigation by a group of dedicated law enforcement professionals committed to making the streets of San Diego safer for the community to live and work,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “This case involved a wide array of investigative techniques varying in their complexity, worked jointly with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, all with one goal in mind – to bring justice to Mr. Love and his family.”

On July 1, a total of five search warrants were served in Hawthorne, Bellflower, Long Beach, and two warrants were served in Compton. Five firearms were recovered during the execution of these search warrants and Hicks and Williams were arrested at their homes in Compton. The arrests were made possible with continuing assistance of the FBI’s Los Angeles’s Field Office, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Violent Crimes Task Force, Long Beach Police Department, Torrance Police Department, and the Hawthorne Police Department.

On July 7, 2021, Johnson and Batten were arrested by San Diego Sheriff’s detectives after they landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Later the same day, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Detail served a search warrant at Ramos’ residence in the city of San Diego and arrested him there.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit at (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Screenshot of Match.com

$2 Million Settlement with Match.com and Other Dating Sites

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that Match Group, Inc., the owner of numerous popular online dating sites including Match.com, PlentyofFish, OkCupid and Tinder, agreed to pay $2 million in civil penalties and costs, in addition to victim restitution, as part of the settlement of a consumer protection lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Santa Cruz county in November 2020 by the California Auto Renewal Task Force (CART), which includes the District Attorney’s Offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties and the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, and alleged that Match’s online dating service subscriptions violated provisions of California’s automatic-renewal and dating service contract laws.

Among other things, the task force alleged that Match’s sign-up processes failed to clearly and conspicuosly inform consumers that they were enrolling in an automatically-renewing service and failed to secure their affirmative consent as required by law. Additionally, the prosecution team alleged that Match’s post-payment acknowledgments failed to inform consumers how to cancel and that the cancelation process was lengthy and tedious – also violations of California’s automatic renewal laws. Match has denied these allegations.

“San Diego and its CART colleagues continue to hold companies accountable when they violate California’s automatic renewal laws, and online dating service companies are no exception,” DA Stephan said. “These laws exist so that consumers are not surprised by unanticipated recurring charges and, when seeking to cancel an automatically-renewing subscription, can do so simply and efficiently. This is one of several recent examples of our consumer protection team working with CART to achieve compliance with these important laws.”

Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann entered a final court judgment on the parties’ stipulated settlement on July 7, 2021.

The judgment requires Match to have full transparency with consumers about their automatically renewing subscriptions.

The company must:
• Clearly and conspicuously disclose its automatic-renewal terms
• Obtain the consumers’ affirmative consent to the terms through a separate checkbox or
similar mechanism before charging for an automatic renewal or continuous service
• Email consumers a confirmation of the transaction after they pay which clearly includes the automatic-renewal terms and information on how to cancel
• Allow consumers to easily cancel their subscriptions, including online

Match has already taken steps to ensure its web disclosures and processes comply with California’s Automatic Renewal and Dating Service Contract laws.

Deputy District Attorneys Colleen E. Huschke and Stephen M. Spinella with the Consumer Protection Division handled this case for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Welk Resorts Will Pay Up To $ 5.5 Million To Settle Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Gang Claims Innocent Victims

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office today arraigned Tahjee Ector, 23, of Riverside County on two counts of murder, premeditated attempted murder, shooting into a residence and assault with a firearm in connection with three gang motivated killings that occurred over the past five years. If convicted, he faces life in state prison.

Last month, in connection with same gang motivated crime spree, the District Attorney also charged Kenneth Brooks, 21, with two counts of murder, premeditated attempted murder, shooting into a residence and assault with a firearm.

The charges come as law enforcement officials are reporting a troubling increase in gang-related crime and the proliferation of ‘ghost guns’– firearms that are assembled by hand and are usually untraceable. According to the District Attorney’s Office, most of the criminal cases it files involving ghost guns are gang related. Since 2019, the DA’s Gangs Division has charged cases involving over 100 ghost guns. At the same time, gang-related cases submitted to the DA’s Office by law enforcement countywide are up 25% from same time last year.

Prosecutors say that in May 2016, Ector went to Emerald Hills Park looking for rival gang members to shoot and kill. Believing he had located a rival, Ector shot and killed Kevin Spelmon, 46, as he worked on his car.

Four years later, in May 2020, Ector continued to kill on behalf of his gang. Ector and Brooks engaged in an ongoing conspiracy with other gang members, where they armed themselves with automatic handguns and again attempted to locate, shoot and kill rivals. Their mission culminated in the murder of an innocent victim, Arif Abdalla, 28.

Brooks went in search of rivals in Emerald Hills Park, in May 2021, this time, resulting in the murder of Tamara Shellum, another innocent victim.

The spike in gang-related crime and the widespread use of untraceable guns by gangs needs to be addressed through prevention and prosecution,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We won’t allow gangs to terrorize any of our neighborhoods in San Diego County and we are dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to stem the alarming uptick in gang-related violence.”

“Preventing and addressing gang-related crime and the use of ghost guns is a priority for the San Diego Police Department,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “I would like to thank our Homicide Unit, Gang Investigators, and Special Operations Unit for tirelessly working to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”

Recently, the San Diego Police Department said it is on pace this year to nearly double the number of ghost guns they impounded last year. Of every five guns police seize, one is a ghost gun.

In addition, gang shootings are up 129% over the same period last year. Below is a comparison of the first six months of 2021 with the same period in 2020, based on data from the San Diego Police Department.

  • 39 shootings compared with 17 last year, a 129% increase
  • Three attempted murder cases compared to one last year
  • 34 assaults with a deadly weapon compared to 19 last year
  • Nine drive-by shootings compared to two last year

Ector pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is scheduled for a bail review hearing on July 6 at 8:30 a.m. and a preliminary hearing on July 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Brooks is scheduled to be in court on July 20 at 8:30 a.m. for a status hearing.

Fentanyl warning flyer in English

Officials Warn About Increased Fentanyl Overdose Deaths

The top law enforcement leaders in San Diego County are sounding the alarm about a concerning increase in overdose deaths related to fentanyl, especially among younger people. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department and Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association are pushing out the warning on social media in an effort to educate youth and parents that if the pill you’re taking didn’t come from a pharmacy, it could kill you. [TWEET THIS]

In 2019, there were 151 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County. According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, there were 461 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County in 2020, triple the number from the year before. While still early, the projection for 2021 is 700 such overdose deaths.

The District Attorney’s Office is part of the Narcotics Task Force Team 10, which responds to an average of 5 to 6 calls per week; most of them fatal overdoses and most involving a fentanyl-related overdose. The deaths are occurring in every part of the county and affecting every demographic.

“Parents are finding their children dead from fentanyl overdoses, boyfriends finding their girlfriends dead, and children are being put at risk by this alarming spike,” said DA Summer Stephan. “We’ve been sounding this alarm for years but the problem is only getting worse. Our office continues to focus on awareness campaigns while at the same time stepping up our prosecutions of street dealers who know their product is suspect in an attempt to try and save lives. Fentanyl laced drugs continue to be sold on the streets and we need to get the word out that you never know what you’re taking if it’s not from a pharmacy.”

“Our mission is to save lives,” said Sheriff Bill Gore. “Sheriff’s Deputies were the first in the Western United States to carry a nasal spray called Naloxone to counter the effects of an opioid overdose. So far this year, we have saved 59 people from overdosing. These are people deputies and medical staff have encountered on patrol, courthouses and our jails. We also offer safe options to get rid of expired, unused and unwanted medication. No questions asked. Go to sdsheriff.gov to find a Sheriff’s drop box location near you. Now more than ever, we must stay alert against drug misuse and abuse.”

In January of this year, an active firefighter overdosed and died from fentanyl.  In February, two women in Point Loma smoked what they thought was methamphetamine and went to bed. The methamphetamine turned out to have been mixed with fentanyl. One of the women woke up the next morning; the other did not.

In February of this year, an 8-month-old baby was treated at Rady’s Children Hospital after having ingested fentanyl while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend.  Administration of Naloxone by hospital staff saved the baby’s life.  The mother and her boyfriend, both with a history of drug use, are charged with felony child endangerment.

When appropriate, criminal charges are also filed against dealers whose sales result in an overdose death. Depending on the circumstances, these charges range from the sale of fentanyl causing great bodily injury to murder.  There are currently three defendants charged with a total of four murders for having sold fentanyl that resulted in deaths.

“As first responders, law enforcement officers see firsthand the destruction of drug overdose and the devastation it causes to families,” said Roxanna Kennedy, President of the San Diego County Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association. “People are dying every day. That’s why San Diego County law enforcement leaders are committed to bringing awareness to this issue. We all need to work together to educate our community including parents and young people.”

The District Attorney’s Office joined forces with the Health and Human Services Agency to launch a large scale outreach campaign last year, The San Diego Opioid Project, which included messaging about laced substances that can include deadly fentanyl.

When in a medical emergency, call 911. If you, or someone you know needs help for addiction, call San Diego County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 or 2-1-1 San Diego for information and support. [TWEET THIS]

Welk Resorts Will Pay Up To $ 5.5 Million To Settle Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Judge Orders a Million Dollars in Restitution in Navy Fraud Case

San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan and California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that Paul Flanagan was sentenced today to 357 days of house arrest and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution for defrauding thousands of U.S. Navy sailors in San Diego County through a tax and insurance scheme. Another defendant, Ranjit Kalsi, was previously sentenced and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution. The scheme, perpetrated through a company called Go Navy Tax Services, sold expensive and unnecessary insurance products to service members at a substantial commission for the defendants. [TWEET THIS]

“Our military service members and their families contribute so much to our nation – yet there are people without honor who want to cheat our American heroes. We hope that today’s announcement helps right the wrongs that were committed by the malicious scammers of Go Navy Tax,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The California Department of Justice will continue to investigate and prosecute schemes that hurt our men and women in uniform. We protect our military families as we applaud them for protecting our country.”

“The victims of this scam were Navy sailors serving our country and were tricked into signing up for something they didn’t need and couldn’t afford,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we were able to shut down the scam, prosecute the offenders, and put money back into the pockets of our hard-working military members. It is particularly satisfying to see these sailors receiving restitution payments, some in the thousands of dollars, to make a positive difference in their lives.”

“Scamming young men and women serving our country to sign up for insurance they didn’t ask for epitomizes the fraud and abuse against vulnerable people we are here to stop,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Our insurance investigators are proud to help our sailors receive restitution and put this illegal operation out of commission.”

“The Navy welcomes the outcome of this fraud case and applauds the civilian-military teamwork which led to it,” said Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O’Rourke. “Restitution is a positive and fitting result, one which will be appreciated by sailors who have been victimized. Financial predators are sadly a reality for many junior military men and women and their families, even in areas as traditionally supportive to the troops as San Diego. Service members who suspect they may be the victims of fraud are encouraged to contact their local military legal assistance office.”

Defendant Flanagan was sentenced after pleading guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit insurance twisting, or making misrepresentations to consumers to induce them to take out insurance policies. Defendant Kalsi previously pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft, a felony, and was sentenced on February 10, 2021, to serve 358 days in custody and pay $500,000 in restitution.  A third defendant, Gregory Martin, pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft, a misdemeanor, on December 7, 2020, and received credit for 517 days served in custody.

The defendants operated Go Navy Tax Services out of a trailer located just outside of the front gate of Naval Base San Diego that advertised free income tax preparation services for military members. The trailer was adorned with military flags intended to deceive service members into thinking the business was affiliated with the U.S. military. The defendants lured service members into the trailer under the pretext of free tax preparation services. The defendants then persuaded service members to purchase retirement accounts, but rather than opening those accounts, the defendants used those service members’ personal information to open unnecessary life insurance policies without their knowledge or consent. The defendants earned over $2 million in commissions related to sales of nearly 5,000 applications for life insurance policies and annuity contracts.

Today’s sentence was the result of a joint effort by the California Department of Justice, San Diego District Attorney’s Office, California Department of Insurance, Office of the Inspector General-Navy Region Southwest, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The investigation also received critical support from Naval Base San Diego and the Navy Region Legal Service Office Southwest Legal Assistance Department. This case falls under the Life and Annuity Consumer Protection Program, in which the San Diego District Attorney’s Office receives funding from the Department of Insurance to prosecute cases involving life and annuity financial crimes.

If you believe you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud, you can report it here: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers.

[TWEET THIS]

Photo of fraud WARNING: Beware of Phony Vaccine Cards

WARNING: Beware of Phony Vaccine Cards

The District Attorney’s Office is warning the public about reports of advertisements on social media sites, such as Instagram, offering fake vaccination cards. This is a crime and anyone dealing in phony vaccination cards can be prosecuted with forging a seal or false personation of an official.

Vaccine record cards are intended to provide recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine with information about the type of vaccine they received, whether and when they need a second dose, and to provide to their primary health physicians to maintain accurate records. COVID-19 vaccine cards contain official U.S. government seals and unauthorized duplication of these seals is illegal in California, as well as a violation of federal criminal law.

In addition to putting yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19, you may be prosecuted for fraud. If you did receive the vaccine, do not post photos of your vaccine card to social media websites; your personal information could be stolen to commit fraud.

To report suspicious activity involving fake vaccination record cards, please contact the appropriate government agency in your state or jurisdiction, HHS-OIG (1-800-HHS-TIPS or www.oig.hhs.gov); or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).

Infographic of the SAK monkfish kit testing project.

All Rape Kits Tested, New Sexual Assault Case Filed

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that all 2,030 untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) from 12 police agencies across the county have been tested after being sent to an independent lab. It is yet another significant milestone in this three-year project.

The DA also said testing has resulted in a new criminal case being filed against a defendant accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 2014. Larry Gene Rivers, 57, is charged with two felony counts of a lewd act upon a child and faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted. DNA evidence from a sexual assault kit that was part of the DA’s testing project led to the charges. Rivers was arraigned on April 16 and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for August 24. [TWEET THIS]

“With the filing of a criminal case as a result of our testing project, it’s proof that these sexual assault kits contain powerful evidence that can speak on behalf of victims and help us pursue justice on their behalf years later,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to investigate the results we’re getting from the CODIS uploads. Behind this monumental milestone of testing 2,030 sexual assault kits is an elite DA team of prosecutors, investigators, paralegals and victim advocates who worked tirelessly to bring dignity and determination to each case. We will continue to prioritize the testing of sexual assault kits and to invest in following up and investigating any hits to determine if a case built on proof beyond a reasonable doubt can be filed.”

Results have come back from all the kits that were sent for testing and indicate that 735 of the SAKs contained DNA other than the victim’s.  If the DNA profile developed meets the requirements of CODIS, that DNA is now in the process of being uploaded into the FBI’s national CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database to determine if there is a potential offender match.

As of May 2021, DNA results from 485 Sexual Assault Kits have been uploaded into CODIS. The labs responsible for conducting the CODIS uploads for this project are Verdugo Lab in Glendale and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab. Of the SAKs uploaded to CODIS so far, 167 are new offender hits, 125 of which are “Warm” hits, and 42 hits are “Cold” hits. A “Warm” hit is when the suspect was known to the victim or the victim knew the real name of the suspect and the suspect was identified. A “Cold” hit is when the suspect was not known to the victim, or the victim did not provide an actual real name or identification.

There have been 52 case-to-case hits (forensic hits), which is when a DNA profile from one case matches to a DNA profile from a different case, including both solved and unsolved cases. A case-to-case hit could lead to an investigation. 100 profiles hit in CODIS to an offender sample (conviction match) but are not considered a new offender hit. It is important to note that the number of CODIS hits will increase as more SAKs are uploaded into CODIS.

The DA’s Office is reviewing the results from the CODIS uploads which could lead to new investigations. About 36% of the SAKs tested by Bode Labs produced a DNA profile or partial DNA profile that belongs to a person who is not the victim. Any eligible DNA profiles are uploaded into the DNA database. The DA’s Office reviews the results of matches between the DNA evidence from SAKs and DNA profiles in the DNA database. Investigators use matches from the DNA database to re-examine the case to determine if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt with the new evidence.

Statistics related to the testing are updated monthly and can be found on the DA’s public website.

The announcement that the first part of this large scale county-wide public safety initiative has been completed clears the untested rape kits from the Sheriff’s Department, eight Police Departments and three University Police Departments. This initiative does not include rape kits from the San Diego Police Department, which also made the determination to send their Sexual Assault Kit inventory to the same outside laboratory for testing as is being used in the DA’s project.

Reducing the countywide backlog of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) has been a priority for DA Summer Stephan since taking office and to fulfill that priority, she identified funding and retained Bode Cellmark Forensics of Lorton, Virginia, which has a track record of for excellence in DNA testing. To date, more than $1.7 million has been spent by the District Attorney’s Office on testing. Sheriff William Gore and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are key partners in the project, which received praise from victims’ rights groups like the Joyful Heart Foundation. [TWEET THIS]

Cultural Awareness App for Police Agencies

Cultural Awareness App for Law Enforcement

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office has created an app that provides key cultural knowledge about San Diego County’s various, diverse communities to help law enforcement officers respond respectfully during non-emergency situations. [TWEET THIS]

The Cultural Awareness Project (CAP App) was developed under the guidance of the DA’s Interfaith Advisory Board, which conducted focus groups with various community representatives to inform its content. The app provides information on cultural norms across 11 communities including African-American youth, Mexican/Mexican-American, Asian, Vietnamese, East African/Somali, East African/Somali Youth, Muslim, Samoan, Native American and more. For example, the app provides easy-to-read information on a group’s traditions and beliefs, greetings, what to expect when visiting households, and what the group’s historical experiences with law enforcement are.

“San Diego County is home to a variety of races, ethnicities, religions and cultural backgrounds,” DA Summer Stephan Said. “Building law enforcement’s understanding of our diverse communities helps to improve respectful and culturally competent communication. This new and innovative app has great promise to help advance trust between police and the communities they serve because it is a tool built by the community from the ground up. I want to thank the members of our DA Interfaith Advisory Board for devoting months of time gathering the pertinent information and making this app a reality.”

The San Diego Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association also embraced the app.

“Developing cultural competencies is an important part of modern policing,” Chief David Nisleit, said. “I want to thank all of the community groups for their collaboration on this project.”

The District Attorney’s Interfaith Advisory Board was formed over a decade ago as a way of maintaining an open dialogue between the DA’s Office and the various communities throughout San Diego County. Each month, leaders from a variety of religious organizations meet at the DA’s CARE Center where they voice community concerns and work on solution-oriented initiatives to address the needs they identify as public safety issues. The Board has and will continue to provide cultural insight to law enforcement officials in non-emergency situations.

“Whenever there’s a job to do, you must have the right tools to accomplish the job,” said Dr. Gerald L. Johnson, Chairman of United African American Ministerial Action Council and member of the DA’s Interfaith Advisory Board. “All jobs are important, especially those of our professionals who are sworn to public safety. We will witness the importance of the CAP App as the testimonies are documented from the community and professionals alike sharing the same tool.”

Members of the Interfaith Advisory Board worked on the CAP App since the idea was conceived.

“It’s very important to have our local law enforcement officers equipped with the accurate information on the communities they serve and protect,” said Imam Taha Hassane, Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego and a member of the DA’s Interfaith Advisory Board.

Each of the 11 communities has four categories of information, and each category provides culturally based knowledge to guide interactions with members of that community:

Traditions and Beliefs

Every community shares different cultural/ethnic/religious traditions or beliefs of which law enforcement needs to be aware of to have effective encounters.

Greetings

This category reflects the appropriate manner of greeting in different cultures, including demeanor, non-verbal, body space, handshake, bow, male-female interaction, etc.

Visiting Households

The information provided under this category helps officers identify who is considered the head of the household in each culture and who should be addressed or acknowledged first.

Experiences with Law Enforcement

This section includes shared views, perceptions and past experiences with law enforcement in different cultures that reflect certain behaviors upon contact with the officers.

The app is intended to help prepare law enforcement before encountering a member of the public from a different culture in a non-emergency situation. It is an easy and quick tool to navigate, before an interaction in the field, especially when conducting home visits. The app will also be helpful as a debriefing resource when an encounter has not gone well.

The CAP app is free and available and ready to download in the Apple and Android app stores under “Cultural Awareness Project.” The app does not have access to a user’s camera or contacts. [TWEET THIS]

Photo of Investigative Specialist Arnel Alamo for AAPI Heritage Month.

Meet Investigative Specialist Arnel Alamo

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet DA Investigative Specialist Arnel Alamo, who has been part of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation (BOI) since 2006. He conducts low end investigations and serve criminal subpoenas throughout the County. He also performs a wide variety of investigative functions related to the DA’s Bureau of Investigations.

Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?

“When I was a college student pursuing my Criminal Justice degree, I interned at the Public Defender’s Office and the Chula Vista Police Department Crime Lab. My experience in my internship motivated me to pursue a career in public service. I have always enjoyed interacting with the public and working with our Criminal Justice System. Working for the District Attorney’s Office gave me the opportunity to do both.”

Why is AAPI Heritage Month important to you?

“With the current climate towards Asians, I think it is important to highlight and share – whether it’s through their voices, food, entertainment, or music – the contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made towards US history. AAPI month celebrates our culture and heritage while reflecting on our families’ sacrifices for an opportunity for a brighter future for the next generation.”