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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007 | On Jan. 26, the day before three migrant workers’ camps in Rancho Peñasquitos were vandalized, Jeff Schwilk, leader of the San Diego Minutemen, sent out an e-mail to his troops inviting them to a “special op” in the same canyons the next morning.
San Diego detectives are investigating the vandalism and have searched the homes of Schwilk and other anti-illegal immigration activists in the past few months. North County Latino groups are offering a $10,000 reward for information regarding the attacks, but the police have yet to bring criminal charges against anyone.
Schwilk’s e-mail, obtained by voiceofsandiego.org, is referenced in the March search warrant issued for Schwilk’s home address in Oceanside.
“SCHWILK said that he sent out an E-mail about a ‘Special Ops’ for January 27, 2007 in the canyon,” reads the affidavit in the search warrant, which was written by San Diego Police Department Det. Patrick Lenhardt. “… SCHWILK stated that he took a few people and went into McGonigle Canyon to trim the bushes and pick-up trash.”
The Jan. 26 e-mail, which starts with the words “Do not forward” in red, underlined block capital letters, offers little insight into what Schwilk had planned for the weekend’s operation.
“We are helping local officials clear out all the camps inside and outside of McG Canyon. There are a few small villages throughout Peñasquitos area,” the e-mail reads.
“We are really cleaning up San Diego now,” is the last sentence.
Schwilk declined requests for an interview. In response to questions, he wrote in an e-mail that he cannot comment on an ongoing police investigation.
Schwilk played down the meaning of “special ops.”
“All our ops in the canyon are special ops. We’ve been there probably 15 times in the past 18 months. … We went there in January to make sure the(y) hadn’t come back!”
Ray Carney, an anti-immigration activist from Fallbrook who has attended numerous rallies and events with Schwilk, said the Minutemen leader has always referred to any activities in the canyons as “special ops.”
“Everybody hears ‘special ops’ and they think that’s so black bag,” Carney said. “But he’s a Marine, that’s just the type of terminology he uses.”
Lenhardt’s affidavit offers some insight into the Minutemen’s Jan. 27 operation in McGonigle Canyon, a brush-filled valley in Rancho Peñasquitos that was once home to scores of migrants.
The affidavit states that Christi Czjakowski, a former member of the Minutemen who formerly dated Schwilk, said Schwilk took a pair of hedge cutters with him on the day of the operation, and that he and others used them to trim branches in McGonigle Canyon.
According to the affidavit, Schwilk told Lenhardt that he was using the hedge cutters to cut back foliage in an area he called the “rape grove.” The “rape grove” is a part of McGonigle Canyon that local Minutemen claim has been used as a location for prostitution and child prostitution.
In the alleged vandalism, migrants’ clothes and blankets were slashed.
The affidavit also states that Schwilk said “he knows the people involved are remorseful for what they did.” When Lenhardt asked Schwilk who the vandals were, the affidavit states, Schwilk said he hadn’t been involved in the vandalism, and that he had only heard rumors.
Daniel Gilleon, an attorney who aims to file a civil suit against Schwilk and others on behalf of a migrant whose property was damaged in the vandalism attacks, said he will use the e-mail as evidence against Schwilk. Gilleon said he is waiting until the criminal investigation is completed to file the suit.
A spokesman for the San Diego Police Department said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation into the alleged vandalism.