In the first case of its kind in San Diego County, two black San Diego men have been charged with violating the civil rights of whites during an apparent hate crime.
The charges stem from an incident Sunday night at Belmont Park in Mission Beach in which six people were injured, including a 5-year-old boy and a 70-year-old man, by a group of more than 12 black men, police said.
All but one of the victims was white; a black man who was walking with three whites was taunted and struck. Witnesses told police that the blacks were making racial slurs during the rampage.
The civil rights statute has been used to charge from 10 to 15 whites of crimes against blacks, Hispanics and other minorities in San Diego County since the state law's inception in January, 1988, but this is the first time that blacks have been charged with violating the rights of whites locally, said Deputy District Attorney Luis Aragon.
"This is a unique case here," Aragon said. "I believe there have been a few similar charges filed elsewhere in the state but not in San Diego."
No one was available to comment from the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and other black civil rights groups in San Diego.
Donnie Lee Alexander, 19, and Richard Henry Maxey, 25, both of Southeast San Diego, pleaded innocent Tuesday at their arraignment in San Diego Municipal Court to a battery charge, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and four misdemeanor counts of violating a person's rights because of race, creed or color. Alexander also has been charged with a count of felony armed robbery.
Both men were being held in the San Diego County Jail, Alexander on $62,000 bail and Maxey on $45,000 bail. Judge Gail Kaneshiro ordered both men to be held in jail at least until their preliminary hearing scheduled for Oct. 10.
Aragon said the district attorney's office filed the charges after considering possible causes for the attacks along the boardwalk and concluding that the suspects assaulted and robbed the victims because they were white.
He said violations of a person's civil rights are "the same in the eyes of the law," regardless of the victim's race.
Police are continuing to investigate and Aragon said similar charges could be filed against others blacks suspected of participating in the beatings.
The attacks culminated a weekend of violence in the Mission Bay area. A 17-year-old Long Beach girl was shot to death early Sunday in a Ski Beach parking lot in what police are investigating as a possible gang-related attack. A 21-year-old man was found shot to death in a Ventura Cove parking lot early Saturday.
Mission Beach has been plagued with violence and public drunkenness in recent years, and residents and merchants say the problem is worsening in some parts of the beach community.
Jeanne Wright, spokeswoman for South Mission Beach Concerned Citizens, said the boardwalk has become a haven for drunks, panhandlers, prostitutes, violence, racial tension and generally rowdy behavior.
"Many people have given up coming here. It's become very scary to go there at night," Wright said. "The racial tension has gotten much worse. There are fights down there all the time."
Wright said there are too few police in the area and that officers sometimes turn their backs to minor crimes. She said drunks and other "undesirables" know that jail overcrowding means they can "get away with much more" before police will arrest them.
Ray Hamel, co-owner of Hamel's Action Sports along the boardwalk, said alcohol abuse is the root of many of the area's problems.
Hamel sarcastically refers to the area as San Diego's "most integrated ghetto" because of the mix of criminals, prostitutes and drunks of all races.