Monday, November 20 , 2017, 11:21 am | Fair 68º


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As Gang Injunction Trial Begins, Man Arrested for Bringing Weapons to Court

Anti-injunction activists crowd into Monday's confirmation hearing, where a bailiff finds a suspicious backpack under a bench

A Santa Barbara man attending a hearing Monday on the city's gang injunction case was arrested for bringing weapons to Superior Court.

Brian Charles Ruiz
Brian Charles Ruiz

The gang injunction trial starts this week, and Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne will determine whether to grant the petition and create “safety zones” with restrictions for alleged gang members.

Evidence will be presented by the plaintiffs who filed the injunction three years ago — the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office and the Police Department — and defense attorneys for the alleged gang members named in the case.

The petition asks for large portions of the city to be made into “safety zones” where the named individuals would be limited from associating with each other, going to schools or parks, using drugs and alcohol, and other activities.

Monday’s trial confirmation hearing was packed with a crowd of anti-injunction activists. Many of them have been protesting at City Council meetings, and they’re now sending letters of opposition to the City Attorney’s Office through the PODER group. 

One of the opponents was arrested on charges of bringing weapons to a court building.

Brian Charles Ruiz, 26, of Santa Barbara, is in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail after allegedly bringing a backpack with an airsoft gun that looks like a handgun, two knives, ammunition for a 22-inch long rifle and a loaded magazine for a 22-inch long rifle, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Ruiz is known to local law enforcement and has a gang affiliation.

Around noon Monday, after the hearing had started, a sheriff’s bailiff noticed a backpack under a bench. Court security staff conducted bag checks for the gang injunction hearing, and the backpack was found outside the screening area.

The courthouse sometimes sets up metal detectors outside courtrooms but on Monday, court security staff conducted bag checks and did hand-held metal detection.

Hoover said authorities found Ruiz’s identification and multiple compact discs with “what appeared to be gang writing and a video camera which showed suspected gang association” in the backpack.

Ruiz, who was one of several dozen people wearing an anti-injunction T-shirt, was arrested when he returned to the bench to get his backpack, Hoover said. She said she was unsure whether security procedures at the courthouse will change, and noted that this happened outside the screening area. Unlike the Figueroa Courthouse, there are no security procedures to get inside the Anacapa Division, where this trial is being heard. 

Hoover said it's concerning that someone showed up to court with a bag of "dangerous items. It was good work on the part of our bailiff to catch that." 

The proposed injunction named 30 people as alleged members of the Eastside and Westside gangs, but over the past month, new City Attorney Ariel Calonne has dropped 19 names from the list. He said those individuals no longer constitute a public nuisance, which is the basis for the gang injunction claim. Just a few days before that decision, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 5-2 to proceed with trial

The plaintiffs expect to call 12 to 15 witnesses, starting with several people from the Santa Barbara Police Department, Assistant District Attorney Hilary Dozer said. Trial is expected to take 10-15 days.

Law enforcement witnesses will explain the history and culture of local gangs, events that led to the injunction being filed and the status of gangs now, Dozer said. He plans to have some witnesses recalled to give more testimony after cross examination, which is unusual in a civil trial.

Expert witnesses such as Detective Gary Siegel, who wrote the 400-plus-page declaration for the petition, will testify more than once so they can describe their own experiences and “give meaning” to other testimony for the court, Dozer said.

Sterne said she will take a hard line to make sure the plaintiffs don’t get “two bites of the apple” and testimony isn’t duplicated.

Among the first witnesses are Santa Barbara police Sgt. David Henderson, records specialist Cathy Chan, Siegel and Fresno County Chief Deputy District Attorney Greg Anderson. Fresno County has implemented seven gang injunctions since 2003, and Anderson will be testifying as an expert witness.

Defense attorneys are working together to represent the named defendants and fight the implementation of an injunction. Since an injunction is an “abridgement of personal rights” and there are multiple defendants, there will probably be multiple attorneys cross-examining each witness, according to Sterne.

The trial is expected to start Tuesday morning in Department 5 in the Santa Barbara County Superior Courthouse on Anacapa Street.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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