SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a gift of sorts to criminals across the country. In case after case, we have seen individuals released out of concern for safety—not the public’s safety, but the criminal’s.
The latest case comes to us out of the City by the Bay, where a man who was caught driving through the city with a pistol, duct tape, rope and a Halloween mask was released with no additional jail time this past week, Law Enforcement Today has learned.
Damion J. Davis, 48, had been locked up at the Santa Rita Jail since December, having been indicted on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Last week, Davis’ attorney said that conditions at the jail were “too dangerous to justify incarceration,” according to Mercury News.
Davis was arrested last October when Davis said that he had picked up the gun, along with a small amount of meth just minutes before being pulled over.
In court, prosecutors had asked for a 30-month sentence in federal custody for Davis, while saying that he posed a danger to the community. The judge, however agreed with the defense, with Federal Judge William Orrick agreeing to “free Davis outright on the condition that he stay at home until approved to enter a drug treatment facility,” Mercury News added.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aseem Padukone, in a sentencing memo, wrote:
“It is particularly disturbing when the owner of these items also possesses a loaded gun, a recent conviction for violating a restraining order, and a past domestic battery conviction,” Padukone said. “Only Mr. Davis knows what would have happened had the police not stopped his car and found his gun that night.”
In arguing for his release, Davis’ attorney argued that due to restrictions on accepting inmates at the federal prison, Davis would need to spend a majority of an anticipated long sentence at the Santa Rita Jail. He noted that the conditions at Santa Rita were “much worse” than they normally would be due to the pandemic.
“As a middle-aged man with respiratory problems, Mr. Davis is especially at risk,” said his federal public defender Daniel Blank in a sentencing statement.
He continued that due to “neglect and abuse” as a child, Davis was terrorized, and had become addicted to meth, which he said was an underlying cause of Davis’ crime.
According to a recent estimate last week, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, which is in charge of the Santa Rita jail, said there were currently 16 active COVID-19 cases in the jail, along with 33 patients who had recovered. However, prisoners at the jail have claimed that more cases are not being reported.
The Sheriff’s Department said that the jail is currently well below capacity due to a glut of early releases and a lack of incoming inmates due to the coronavirus. The jail is currently housing approximately 1,700 inmates.
According to Bearing Arms, Davis could have been subject to a 10-year prison sentence, but will instead serve three years on federal probation.
Bearing Arms noted that Orrick was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013, after serving in the Obama Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder from 2009-2013.
The publication also noted that Orrick has gained a reputation as somewhat of an activist on the bench. They cited a case where Orrick had blocked the release of undercover videos from an anti-abortion group, Center for Medical Progress.
Orrick also, in 2017, blocked an executive order from President Trump which withheld federal funds from sanctuary cities; in 2019 he once again got involved with the Trump administration, ordering them to enforce regulations implemented during Obama’s administration that dealt with methane emissions from oil and gas wells.
Bearing Arms noted that given Orrick’s proclivity for left-leaning decisions, the ruling sentencing Davis to only probation was hardly surprising.
Also in California this week, a story out of Santa Ana that you probably won’t find very shocking.
There seems to be a bit of correlation between directing nearly everyone to adorn face masks akin to those donned by bandits emblazoned on 19th century wanted posters and the robbery rate.
At least that seems to be the case with regard to the city of Santa Ana.
•Armed Robberies On Rise As Suspects Take Advantage Of Mask Mandates… https://t.co/QZoluvtVZY
— NEWS MAKER (@NEWS_MAKER) May 15, 2020
With a 50% uptick in robberies in Santa Ana since the announcement of state Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order delivered in March, it can make one wonder if there happens to be a connection with masks adorned and said robberies.
Elias Khawan, the owner of a local gas station in Santa Ana recounted how one of his clerks was recently robbed at gunpoint by a suspect donning a hat accompanied by an accomplice wearing a face covering:
“We’re sitting here not knowing who’s going to walk through that door.”
Having been the owner and operator of the gas station for some 17 years, he’s noted that the recent times have created dangers unlike anything he’s seen before:
“It’s horrible. I mean, I know we have to take certain measures because of what’s happening with COVID-19, but it’s the perfect script or manual for a robber — the mask, the sunshade and a hoodie. You don’t know who’s coming, who’s walking in.”
— Barry Stagner (@BarryStagner) May 15, 2020
Khawan noted that the gas station used to be open for 24 hours. But, with concerns for his staff’s safety in light of everyone wearing masks these days, he’s changed the operating hours to have the store close at 10:00 p.m.:
“They’re very scared. I have two employees who said, ‘No, we don’t want to work at nighttime.’”
How could anyone blame the employees for their fears? With essentially everyone being encouraged to wear the likes of face masks and coverings, it inevitably creates an emboldening opportunity for those with criminal intent.
Corporal Anthony Bertagna from the Santa Ana Police Department commented that bandana-wearing miscreants are often the ones seen involved in gas station and convenience store robberies:
“It’s the norm. So we’re seeing more [and] more suspects wearing the mask and using that to their benefit.”
While Santa Ana has seen robberies increase, possibly due to the encouragement of everyone being advised to employ a means to cover their nose and mouth, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is telling locals that masks are going to be the new normal for some time.
Los Angeles to require everyone to wear face masks at all times while outdoors | Just The News https://t.co/zhpGZVMsgL
— John Solomon (@jsolomonReports) May 14, 2020
The news was delivered by the governor on May 13th, noting that residents of Los Angeles will have to wear a face mask – with the exception of small children and those toting various disabilities – whenever they’re out and about:
“And as long as you’re not doing a solitary activity or with your own household, put that mask on. Always now.”
That directive must serve as music to a would-be burglar’s ears. We’ve gone from the days when people would be told to remove their Halloween masks on said night when entering stores to now not being allowed to enter stores while partially concealing your identity.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Law Enforcement Today contributor Leonard Sipes was concerned about this very possibility back in early April. Here’s his take on the possible ramifications of the encouraged masks for everyone to adorn that he drafted back on April 5th:
There are endless implications regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, crime seems to be holding steady or decreasing while three out of four Americans are under some form of a lockdown. But there is concern in the US and throughout the world regarding the possibility of increasing crime and spouse or child abuse.
Fraud seems to be exploding. A disruption in the world’s illegal drug market could have a profound effect on supply and price and could lead to a rise in crime. Drug treatment is on hold.
Police and correctional officers are becoming infected. People are suggesting that inmates be released. Extremists are viewing the pandemic as an opportunity, Coronavirus And Crime.
But beyond the headlines, there are responses and questions posed by law enforcement and correctional personnel that take the pandemic in different directions.
Masks For Everyone:
A question from a law enforcement representative. President Trump said on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging all Americans to wear masks on a voluntary basis when they leave their homes. Her question is whether criminals will take advantage of the CDC’s suggestion and what that means for victimization?
If everyone is wearing a mask or an improvised face covering, will this embolden criminals to take advantage of the guidance? Will they avoid detection during and after a crime?
There are hundreds of media reports suggesting that jails and prisons release anyone not deemed to be a threat to public safety to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak within correctional facilities. Per multiple media reports, there are facilities and officers with virus issues, Coronavirus And Corrections.
Before the pandemic, violence was rising, Violence.
Will masks and head coverings become an issue? A group of suspected thieves who dressed as FedEx workers to steal goods were all arrested in Connecticut this week — including one of them twice — when residents stuck at home became suspicious and called police. According to The Hartford Courant, police found two unopened iPhones in their car, which the caller said had been stolen from her porch.
After two members of the group were arrested, charged and released, one of them was arrested again, along with an accomplice, that same night. The accused thieves had FedEx shirts and were wearing surgical masks and gloves.
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