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‘Cheat Sheet’ Used to Cite Homeless, Officer Says : Law enforcement: Santa Ana police official describes his role as a ‘spotter’ during roundup. His supervisor denies handing out list of possible violations.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Santa Ana police officer testified Thursday that he used a “cheat sheet” listing obscure Municipal Code violations to help spot “criminal elements” during police roundups of dozens of homeless people at the Civic Center last summer.

Officer Don Wolfram told Municipal Judge B. Tam Nomoto that he was stationed on an outdoor patio on the third floor of the courthouse Aug. 15 as one of five “spotters.” They were assigned to watch out for criminal activity in the Civic Center.

Wolfram said that he was given a “cheat sheet” to help him determine what kinds of crimes he could cite. He said he could not recall who had given him the list.

According to court records, Wolfram spotted a homeless man plucking leaves from a bush near the police station and had an arresting team pick him up for vegetation destruction.

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In previous testimony, Wolfram’s supervisor, Sgt. Kevin Brown, said he did not recall any cheat sheets being distributed to officers.

Each spotter used a binocular and walkie-talkie to direct officers on the ground who made the arrests. A total of 23 officers participated in the sweep.

More than 60 homeless people were arrested for violations ranging from jaywalking to littering. They were taken to Santa Ana Stadium, where they were chained to benches, marked with identification numbers and photographed. Some were kept at the stadium for several hours before they were cited and released.

Nomoto has been listening to testimony to determine whether the charges against the homeless should be dismissed.

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Wolfram, a 20-year police veteran, testified that until the sweep he had never cited anyone for dropping a match, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk or taking trash from a receptacle--infractions for which the homeless people were cited.

Wolfram testified that he focused on people who lived or congregated at the Civic Center. Santa Ana police have maintained that the roundup did not target the homeless.

Attorneys for the homeless say the officer’s testimony shows that Santa Ana police selectively prosecuted the homeless because it was left up to the officers to decide whether the crime was worth pursuing. They have sought to dismiss the charges on those grounds.

The officer admitted that “he basically targeted certain people,” said attorney Christopher B. Mears.

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But Deputy Dist. Atty. Douglas D. Brannon said Wolfram’s statements were not harmful to the case because Sgt. Brown did not remember anybody distributing “cheat sheets.”

Mears represents Alejandro Garcia Ojeda, 20, accused of destroying vegetation. Mears said Garcia was arrested after he picked several leaves from a bush. Garcia was taken to Santa Ana Stadium, where immigration officials were waiting to question illegal residents. Garcia, a temporary U.S. resident under the amnesty program, was taken to Mexico when he could not produce proper identification.


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