Hemet, California, home of the internationally famous Ramona festival; a city so important that it has not one but four sister cities; a city of light; a city of magic; a city most of the world still cannot find on a map with a magnifying glass; remains a city besieged by relentless, invisible vandals.
“We will prevail on this thing,” Police Chief Richard Dana promised the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Dana did not promise when he was going to start prevailing.
Four official Hemet code enforcement trucks burst into flames about 11:30 Tuesday night outside Hemet City Hall.
The other thing Hemet has been burning lately is money. Earlier this month, the Hemet City Council voted a $55,000 expenditure to help fortify police headquarters. At that meeting, Dana told Councilors that a terrorist could drive a car bomb through the front door of City Hall and kill them all. “We are out of date,” Dana explained. “We have not kept up with changing times in the world.”
Half Empty Or Half Full
But Wednesday, after the four city vehicles appeared to spontaneously combust, Dana was more upbeat. “This is still a superb Police Department that has acquired an enemy engaged in terrorist activity,” he said.
The terrorized pick-up trucks were the latest victims in a series of nasty pranks that goes back 85 days, to New Year’s Eve. That day, someone re-routed a gas line through the roof of the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force headquarters, possibly inspired by a scene from Live Free Or Die Hard. On February 23rd, somebody booby-trapped a gate. On March 5th, somebody attached a “deadly device” to an unmarked police car. The “device” fell off at a gas station. Last week, somebody made a threatening phone call to police headquarters.
Then there were the trucks. The putative arson was in a lot surveilled by video cameras. As of today, Hemet police were still investigating possible ways to back up the DVD.
Dana and a host of other public officials have been gutless about identifying who those terrorists are. Hemet Police Lieutenant Duane Wisehart sounded inscrutable when he said of the incidents, “If they are related, I would think it’s gang-related. There’s an organization to it…There has been some cartelish activity.”
A week ago, Dana and a couple of politicians unabashedly tried to blame the Vagos Motorcycle Club for all this “cartelish” terrorism that has been going on in Hemet. The theory seems to be that the Vagos have chapters in Mexico. There are cartels in Mexico. Voila!
Vote For Me
One of the architects of this conspiracy theory is the Riverside County District Attorney, a man named Rod Pacheco. Pacheco faces reelection in June and is opposed by two challengers. His opponents are Paul Zellerbach, a judge and a former prosecutor and Michael Flory, a prosecutor in neighboring Orange County.
Last week, Pacheco conflated the “cartelish activity” in Hemet with some vague, region-wide round up of Vagos and associates of the Vagos. Pacheco made what amounted to a campaign speech about the series of unsolved vandalisms in Hemet while surrounded by Vagos paraphernalia.
Those raids, whatever they entailed, wherever they were and whatever they accomplished were arranged by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown is running for Governor. Last week Brown stood next to Pacheco and announced that there would be a $200,000 reward for the capture of the vandals. Brown called the vandalism “urban terrorism.”
But yesterday, a week after blaming the Vagos, Hemet Chief Dana was talking out his other face. “To connect this to the Vagos, I’m not sure I’m ready to do that,” Dana told the Los Angeles Times. Dana seems unaware that video evidence exists that he already did connect all of this to the Vagos.