SAN JOSE — Two undercover police officers at a Donald Trump rally last week said they saw Trump supporters “get punched, kicked and pushed” and “running for their lives,” according to a police report.
The plainclothes officers said they did not intervene for fear their own safety would be jeopardized as the estimated 400 protesters developed a “mob mentality.”
The officers’ observations were included in the arrest report of Antonio Moses Fernandez, 19, of San Jose, who is accused of throwing a metal barrier into a police skirmish line following the Trump rally June 2 outside the San Jose Convention Center. Fernandez made his first court appearance Tuesday and was charged with felony assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer, according to court documents.
Fernandez hung up the phone Wednesday when reached by this newspaper. He could face a sentence of five years in prison if convicted on the felony assault with a deadly weapon charge, according to the prosecutors.
“When there’s an assault on a police officer, we don’t have any tolerance for that,” prosecutor Chris Boscia said.
So far Fernandez is the only person to be criminally charged stemming from the violence that erupted outside Trump’s rally last week. Three other people were also arrested the day of the rally, including Ahmed Abdirahman, 19, of Santa Clara, and Robert Trillo, 18, both on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, and Michael Kitaigorodsky, 19, of San Jose, on suspicion of refusal to disperse.
Details about what led to the other arrests have not been made public. Police on Wednesday afternoon released images of another assault suspect they are seeking.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday morning it is reviewing case files in the arrests of Trillo and Kitaigorodsky. If charged, the two men may not make their first court appearance until Aug. 2. Prosecutors were still waiting Wednesday morning to receive the police report in the Abdirahman case.
One of the undercover officers wrote that he was “monitoring protesters from within the crowd” and estimated there were 250 protesters gathered behind barricades at 6 p.m., about one hour before Trump’s scheduled arrival. That number grew as the evening wore on.
As the crowd grew, the officer noted that “it became inherently dangerous for anyone wearing a T-shirt or hat in support of Trump. I observed Trump supporters being spit on, objects being thrown at them, punched, kicked and even robbed of their personal belongings.
“In these instances, I observed victims running for their lives.”
A second undercover officer reported seeing “several individuals wearing Trump articles of clothing get punched, kicked and pushed. Due to the crowd size and volatility, officers (both uniform and plain clothes) were unable to help most victims.”
Just after 8 p.m. police issued an order for the crown to disperse. At 9:10 p.m. the undercover officers witnessed Fernandez throw a metal barricade into officers dressed in full riot gear. One officer was injured after being hit by the barricade, according to the report.
The undercover officers say they witnessed Fernandez pick up a second barrier and then put it down. One witnessed Fernandez remove his shirt and use it to cover his face. One of the undercover officers eventually tackled Fernandez and held him down until uniformed officers arrived to make the arrest.
During a police interview, Fernandez denied throwing the barrier into the police line.
In the face of critics who charge police did little to protect Trump supporters, Police Chief Eddie Garcia has defended his officers’ handling of the protest. Garcia insisted that it was more important for police to hold their “skirmish line” formations than to stop individual attacks.
“We are not an ‘occupying force’ and cannot reflect the chaotic tactics of the protesters,” Garcia told reporters. Unless a victim’s life was in peril or the violence was “spiraling out of control,” he said, officers held back to avoid inciting more violence and having the crowd turn on officers. He also said the 250 police weren’t enough to control about 400 protesters.
Following the rally several videos appeared on various social media sites and captured some of the attacks.
A police task force is reviewing video evidence of the assaults and other possible crimes from the protest. Monday the police department announced more arrests were “imminent,” but so far no additional arrests have been announced.
San Jose police are asking anyone with information about physical assaults at the Trump rally or videos of the violence to contact their Assaults Unit at 408-277-4161 or leave a tip with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP (7867) or svcrimestoppers.org.
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