They ran the license plates of all the cars parked within the complex, ticketing one non-operational vehicle owned by a deaf resident. They took photos of alleged code violations and ordered residents to clean up their yards. One resident was ordered to remove a refrigerator from the side of his home.
Residents were warned, "If you don't clean up and comply, we have probable cause to call immigration." This admonition sent waves of panic through the park. "Immigration is a big word," said the park manager, "and should not be abused."
The residents, with the aid of the property manager, decided to express their discontent with the police department and demand answers from their supposed protectors. The following day, Friday the 12th, they organized a march from the park to the police department to ask some questions.
"We have recently formed a neighborhood watch in our community, and we want to work with you to keep crime out," explained the manager, speaking to Lieutenant Joanne M. Guzek on behalf of the residents. "We understand if you need to come in to arrest someone, but we also think we have a right to know, what brought you in yesterday?"
Lt. Guzek explained that complaints of loud music prompted the raid. The manager was taken aback. She explained the policy. "Whenever I hear loud music, I go and give the residents a verbal warning. If it keeps up, I'm the one who calls the police." She did not hear any loud music or place a call to the police department on Thursday.
The manager explained that there have been issues with code compliance at the park in the past, but that after meetings with a state agency (the park, she claims, sits on an unincorporated area adjacent to the city of Pomona) in which recommendations were made and subsequently implemented, as well as an outreach visit from the Human Society to bring the pets into compliance, the police did not have any reason to come in threatening residents with deportation.
The marchers returned to the mobile home park and began a barbecue. At about six-thirty, several cars of plainclothes officers, the Pomona Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department. They entered the park, knocking down a fence to gain entry.
Tenants panicked and fled when police agents detonated explosive devices--"sound bombs" that did not damage any property but did psychologically terrorize their targets. The manager reported losing count after the fifth explosion. Officers targeted four units, removing the inhabitants and laying them on the floor. Some of those detained were children, and officers had their tasers drawn. Eventually, the children were released, but three men were arrested, including a man who was not a resident of the park, but was simply there to make some repairs to one of the units.
The park's manager expressed particular concern about this man. "He was arrested but I know he is innocent. Last year there was a stabbing here, and [he] intervened to defend my husband. The Pomona police made him testify against the attackers, and there were all kinds of threats against him. Now he's in jail, and he doesn't know his rights because he doesn't speak much English, and he is at risk of being attacked by the same people who stabbed him last year!"
To the park manager, the actions of the police department were discriminatory. "When someone is looking for a place to live, we don't ask if they're residents or citizens or not. If the police really want to be able to protect us, we need to be able to trust them."
In the city of Pomona, where bi-monthly police checkpoints and police disruption of a community forum
last August have already eroded any last traces of community trust law enforcement, no concern is greater.