Q&A: SBPD Juvenile Vandalism/Hate Crime Investigation

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Here is a brief look at the status of the Seal Beach Police Department’s investigation into the juveniles accused of setting off a firework at the front door of an interracial couple at their Old Town home on July 20.

What crimes are being investigated? “The crimes being investigated in this incident are Penal Code §422.6(a) – Violate Civil Rights by Force or Threat of Force, (Hate crime) §594(a)(1) – Misdemeanor Vandalism, and §136.1(b)(1) – Attempt to Prevent/Dissuade Victim/Witness,” according to a July 31 email from Seal Beach Police Chief Phil Gonshak.

The last crime is related to parents of some of the accused juveniles reportedly visiting the home of the victim in the days after the incident. “Our message to all parents is to please not contact any witnesses, suspect(s), victim(s), or any other involved parties in this investigation, as doing so only threatens the sanctity of the investigation and a jury pool if later needed.”

What’s the Status of the Investigation? SBPD reports it has spoken to all potential witnesses and the parents of all alleged juvenile offenders believed responsible for the incident. Some of the juveniles live outside of Seal Beach, according to SBPD.

“The parents have been cooperative, although one parent has refused to allow officers to interview their juvenile,” the SBPD wrote in the email. The investigation is wrapping up and SBPD is “preparing to submit it to the District Attorney’s Office for review within the next week or so.”

“Once it is reviewed by the assigned deputy district attorney, our detectives will work with the DA to determine if additional follow-up is needed.”

What punishment could the juveniles face? “Punishments and sentencing are determined by the court system(s) and not by the Police Department or District Attorney’s Office. With juveniles, there may be alternative sentence guidelines, which are imposed in lieu of juvenile hall. However, this again is decided by the courts and not the police department.”

Why did the victim reportedly call 911 numerous times? “After researching this, there were a number of calls for service to West-Cities Communications (Our in house dispatch center who serves four different agencies; Seal Beach, Cypress, Los Alamitos and Orange County Parks) regarding this particular incident. With that, I personally listened to each call received and can assure you a police officer was dispatched within minutes to each of them. Because of this, it is unknown if any other calls from this incident were routed to a different agency due to cell towers being overloaded. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, which can sometimes happen with 911 calls, as the California Highway Patrol will receive calls when cell towers become inundated.”

Message from Chief Gonshak: “As with any neighborhood in America, racism has always been an eyesore that nobody wants to admit exists. It is because of this fear of admission, we find ourselves in the times we breathe today. Regardless, the City of Seal Beach is not immune to racism; no matter how much most of us wish our city was, I am here to tell you we are not. The good news is our town is well protected by not just the police, but most importantly by all of you. Even with this protection, I can assure all of you there will be times our ugliest sides of the past will shine brighter than our preferred social image of the future. Accepting this is one thing, yet tolerating it is what’s mostly unacceptable. In closing, it is my hope we continue to listen and search for ways to rid the evil of racism amongst us day after day and not just in Seal Beach, but across the entire world.”