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Aaron Harvey / Photo by Dustin Michelson

The first time I wrote about Aaron Harvey, I tried to end on a hopeful note:

“They have created a young activist now,” Harvey said. “I am going to be actively involved in my community. Not just in my community that I grew up in, but hopefully all communities across the state. I even plan on going to law school.”

He pauses for a moment, then corrects himself. “Not planning. I am going to law school.

At that time, Harvey was facing the terrifying possibility that he’d be sent to prison for life for a crime that even prosecutors themselves admitted he had no direct role in.

His vision of the future in the face of that threat struck me as remarkably audacious – maybe even absurdly so.

This week, though, Harvey headed back to UC Berkeley, where he’s finishing his degree and plans to pursue – yep – a joint J.D./Ph.D. program.

His plans for his life since that first story have remained remarkably consistent, but his fortunes have changed in other ways over the last four and a half years.

Now, Harvey is once again engaged in a legal battle with San Diego law enforcement – but this time, it’s the police who are on the defensive.

Earlier this month, a federal judge determined Harvey’s arrest violated his constitutional rights. The ruling came as part of a civil lawsuit Harvey filed against the officers.

Here are a few choice excerpts from that ruling:

“The warrant declaration presents no facts showing how Harvey’s friendships or involvement in a music group connects him to LPK’s criminal activities or evinces his intent to facilitate criminal offenses by other gang members. … Because the warrant declarations lack probable cause, as discussed above, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have established a constitutional violation under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Harvey’s arrest kicked off a massive dialogue about law enforcement’s treatment of black residents and the consequences of overzealous policing. Think about what’s happened since then: A candidate for DA – from Harvey’s neighborhood – made the policing of people like Harvey central to her campaign. Monica Montgomery ousted the sitting City Council president in large part by making these issues the focus of her run.

As that’s been happening, Harvey’s been working toward his degree in Berkeley. He told me he’s relieved to be out of San Diego.

I asked him about his plans for the future when we met up for coffee recently, just like I did years ago when he was staring down life in prison.

Once again, he told me about his hopes – and they still sound a bit unrealistic, if you ask me.

“I just want to go back to being a normal person, to be totally honest with you,” he said.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Some of the complaints about inadequate medical care inside the Otay Mesa Detention Center that Maya Srikrishnan unearthed sound like they came straight from a horror movie.


Sweetwater officials were warned that a crisis was coming months before they “suddenly” discovered a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall.

When district officials in Sweetwater and elsewhere have let problem educators keep their jobs, they often blame unions for tying their hands – and unions, in turn, blame the districts.

Meanwhile, we’re still fighting to obtain teacher misconduct records from Coronado Unified, almost two years after our initial public records request.


Rural and suburban homeowners are increasingly being forced to rely on the FAIR Plan, the state’s fire insurance provider of last resort.


The doorbell surveillance company Ring has been expanding its connections to law enforcement agencies across the county by offering free and discounted devices when pitching a partnership. Some agencies have then gone on to tout — and effectively market — Ring products to the public.


Two state bills written by San Diego lawmakers haven’t even become law yet, but they’re already serving as inspiration for potential copycat measures on the national level. We talked about the drama surrounding one of those bills, AB 5, on this week’s podcast.

What I’m Reading

Note: I didn’t really mean for these stories to all illustrate such a coherent theme, but, well, this is the world we live in now.

Line of the Week

“Like, what could Donald Trump possibly be better than me at? An eating contest? Like something that involved trying to keep something on the ground and having really large body mass? Like, if there was a hot-air balloon that was rising and you needed to try and keep it on the ground, he would be better than me at that? Because he is so fat.” – Welp, that’s one way to campaign for president.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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