Two undocumented aliens have filed an unprecedented complaint alleging that uniformed San Diego police officers grabbed more than $500 from then in a raid last month, then pocketed the cash.
The Police Department's internal affairs office will investigate the complaint, police spokesman Bill Robinson said, adding that it is the first time to his knowledge that anyone has accused San Diego police of pocketing money from migrants.
Roberto L. Martinez, head of the Quaker-sponsored immigration rights group that handled the formal complaint on behalf of the pair, Pascual Bustos, 24, and Jaime Andrade, 21, said Wednesday that police told him they expect to contact the men today for an interview.
'Want to See Justice'
Bustos and Andrade "don't think they'll get their money back, but they want to see justice done," Martinez said.
The complaint alleges that two of the three officers involved in an Aug. 4 raid in San Diego's Logan Heights neighborhood gave each other the "low five" sign after taking $532 from Bustos and Andrade. It also alleges that Andrade was kicked while handcuffed and lying on the floor.
Martinez, who runs the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee, said he had "no doubts whatsoever" about the truth of the pair's complaint. He translated it and filed it in the name of the Coalition for Law & Justice, a Chicano civil rights group.
Bustos and Andrade are "very sincere, hard-working young men who are sticking by their story," Martinez said. "They have not varied one way or the other. They've been very consistent with what they saw and heard. The fact that they are willing to stay and identify these officers tells me they're telling the truth."
Martinez said he sent copies of the complaint to the police internal affairs office, Police Chief Bob Burgreen and Murray L. Galinson, chairman of the Citizens' Review Board on Police Practices.
Awaiting Inquiry Results
Galinson said Wednesday that the board will review the case only after the internal affairs probe is finished in about six weeks.
Bustos and Andrade were not available Wednesday for comment. Bustos is living in San Diego's Sherman Heights area and Andrade, who briefly went back to Mexico, is expected to return this week to San Diego, Martinez said.
According to the complaint, which is dated Aug. 22, Bustos and Andrade crossed the border Aug. 4 and were taken early in the morning to a house near 31st Street and Imperial Avenue, where eight others, also apparently undocumented aliens, were inside.
Bustos and Andrade had paid $300 to be taken to Los Angeles, Martinez said. The house was where they were to be picked up for the ride, he said.
About 10:30 a.m., three San Diego police officers "forced there (sic) way into the house with guns drawn," the complaint said. The officers demanded to know "where the 'drugs' were" and "lined us up facing the wall," it said.
While one white female officer stood guard at the door, two white male officers "began searching us," the complaint said.
"When they came to Jaime and me, they took 52 American dollars from me, and 480 American dollars from Jaime," it said. "When the officers saw how much money they had, they gave each other the 'low five' sign, then put the money in their pockets."
'Kicked in Stomach'
The officers then "took Jaime aside and body searched him, handcuffed him, and then put him on the floor. One of the officers then kicked him hard in the stomach," the complaint said.
One of the officers, the "one with the big ears," then called immigration authorities, the complaint said. "The police and the Migra (slang for the Immigration and Naturalization Service) joked and made fun of us," according to the complaint.
Border Patrol agents took the migrants to the San Ysidro detention center, where Bustos reported the theft to the "agent in charge, but he just got mad and yelled at me," the complaint said.