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Detective Ellen Vest investigates hate crimes for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and she recently recalled a case in which a white skinhead attacked an African-American man outside a bar, causing brain damage.
Vest thought the assault was a hate crime.
“He had one swastika on his shoulder that he displayed to our African-American victim. So we served a search warrant on his house,” she said of the suspect, who was ultimately convicted. “He had a money clip that had a little KKK man on it, with a burning cross. He didn’t have a lot, but what he did have was really pretty specific to show he was a biased individual.”
To convict a suspect of a hate crime, proving that bias is critical. And for detectives like Vest, one of the best ways to do that is by looking for those hate symbols.
These are boots that Detective Ellen Vest said are evidence their owners were white extremists. They have swastikas on the soles [and don’t miss the ‘SS’ pattern around the sides]. Photo by Adrian Florido
Vest has a pair of confiscated heavy black combat boots popular with white extremists on the floor of her office. She said the red laces meant the owner had spilled blood for his cause. She uses the boots as a doorstop, and as a vase for flowers.
On a second pair, she showed me the rubber treading on the sole, which took the shape of swastikas, meant to leave an intimidating print wherever they stepped.
Vest said the evidence that hate is alive and well gets more disturbing when she enters homes.
‘It’s sad because I’ve gone into homes and seen a sticker up on the refrigerator for the kids to memorize the 14 words,’ she said, referring to the racist mantra, ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’
This is the second in a series at Fronteras Desk on “The Search for Tolerance”. Yesterday’s installment was good too.
The Search For Tolerance: An Arizona Town Tries To Create A New Legacy
Gilbert, Ariz. is a bedroom community outside of Phoenix that has seen explosive population growth in recent decades. As it grew from a small, conservative farming town into a more diverse community, some notable tensions arose.
‘In 1993, our detectives started to identify in the town of Gilbert a gang that called themselves White Power,’ said police spokesman Sergeant Bill Balafas.
Six years later, a spin-off gang called the Devil Dogs emerged among football players at Highland High School.
‘Their belief system, we learned, was for white people and anti everything else,’ Balafas said. ‘So they were racists, but that didn’t mean they didn’t beat up white people, they just beat up everybody.’
That’s the community where white supremacist J.T. Ready killed himself and four others in May.