Irigoyen, the oldest, tried to help Ayala fight back, but apparently in the fury of the assault, he ran to his nearby shack and locked himself in. The teenagers shouted “dinero, dinero,” but Irigoyen didn’t answer. So the youths began ripping at and, eventually, smashing a hole in his dwelling. Irigoyen then came out with a pitchfork to drive the assailants back. He was hit with rocks and shot. He fought back and was then tackled by one of the boys. On the ground (he had dropped the pitchfork in the melee), Irigoyen was pummeled with rocks once more. According to an affidavit by a San Diego police detective, Davidofsky struck Irigoyen with a rock in the head, which may have stunned the old man. (Davidofsky also admitted to shooting several of the other victims.) After this attack, the youths fled. But one of them thought they had killed Irigoyen, and he convinced several others that they needed to go back and hide the body. So four or five returned and dragged Irigoyen’s body into some bushes. Finally, the teenagers left for good.
Irigoyen suffered the most severe wound and returned to his home in Baja California to recover. The four other men were bruised and bloodied from rock attacks and pellet strikes. These men eventually healed and returned to work at Evergreen Nursery. It turned out that all five men are laborers who on occasion travel between the United States and Mexico and who send most of their wages to relatives south of the border. But contrary to what the teenagers thought, they are not here illegally. They are documented workers, legal residents.
A $30,000 reward, a televised reenactment by Crime Stoppers, and eyewitness accounts led to the capture and arrest of the eight juveniles. From them, the police say they confiscated three BB guns and a rapid-fire air-pellet pistol. Other weapons were also discovered: a two-foot metal pipe, a steel bar (rebar), a pitchfork, a wooden stake, a wooden dowel, and rocks. They found blood on a pitchfork, on rocks, on twigs, and on the hat of one of the Mexicans. Prosecutors have charged the teenagers with eight counts, among them, assault with a deadly weapon (against Ayala, Fierros, and Irigoyen) by all eight; robbery (of Miguel and Fierros) by all eight; and willful cruelty against Irigoyen, to inflict “great bodily injury or death,” by all eight. Deboer, Davidofsky, Ketsdever, Manduley, Fileccia, and Williams are charged with assault with a deadly weapon against Roman. Davidofsky, Rose, and Ketsdever are charged with “personally inflict[ing] great bodily injury” on Irigoyen. All eight are charged with a hate crime, which punishes them by adding on four years to any prison sentence they receive.
Outside the courtroom, Hector Jimenez described the attack to reporters as “methodical and gleefully violent,” committed in “predatory fashion.” He told the judge that the youths were “somewhat nonchalant about this whole incident” during questioning. “There certainly wasn’t anyone broken down with sorrow and regret.” Jimenez told me that he believed the crime was “not motivated or committed by a hate group in the traditional way hate groups are described.” He has not I.D.’d the eight as a gang. But it is clear from court documents that they attacked the Mexican men with ganglike terror — in the orderly nature of their plan and in the ravenous swarm of their rampage. Perhaps most unsettling was Jimenez’s portrayal of the criminal hatred the youths brandished. He said they attacked “defenseless elderly people because of their ethnicity” and because the eight wanted “to humiliate [the Mexicans] and toy with them.” To some observers, such prejudice is startling: Who would have thought that white, upper-middle-class kids, with no records and from “good” families, could have been this prejudicial in mind and deed. The case’s greatest irony may be this: According to the Registrar of Voters, the precinct along the 14000 block of Black Mountain Road, an area in Rancho Peñasquitos where some of the defendants live, reports that its voters favored Prop 21 at an even higher percentage than San Diego County: 70 percent. The sons of one rich San Diego suburb that supported the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act are now likely to be nailed to their parents’ political cross.
In the immediate wake of many juvenile crimes, families and friends rush to tell anyone who’ll listen about the “goodness” of the perpetrator in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence. Daily press coverage in August just after the teenagers’ arrests zeroed in on such reactions from neighbors and friends. (Needless to say, none of the eight adolescents or their family members has spoken about the charges, on advice of counsel. When I asked Marc Geller, attorney for Fileccia, for an interview, he produced the most trenchant rebuff: “There’s absolutely nothing that you could ask that I could be assured could not be used against my client in court.”) Those who know the families and the teenagers were “shocked” and “perplexed,” “saddened” and “torn.” From the cliché-box sprung such phrases as “some of these kids just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Others emphasized the students’ solid records in athletics (Fileccia was a member of the Mt. Carmel High School swim and cross-country teams; Williams and Davidofsky were members of the football team) and academics (Fileccia had a B average; Beever was, according to his attorney, an “outstanding student”). After Morgan Manduley was arrested, people heard of his Latino heritage and the breast-beating grew louder. “Morgan Manduley is anything — anything! — but race-motivated,” declared his attorney Kerry Steigerwalt, adding that the youth was the “least culpable” of the eight. Steigerwalt then began a sort of “innocence project” on the boy’s behalf, soliciting letters from relatives, psychologists, teachers, and peers to attest to Manduley’s virtue. Reading the 31 letters, comb-bound in a plastic-covered booklet, one feels less suspicious of their putative rectitude and more uncomfortable with their accommodating predictability. Almost all follow a content-exacting five-paragraph format. Some letters assert that Manduley may not have been involved in the crime, though the writer acknowledges his presence. One wonders how they know. Several letters draw out specific past events as proof of his decency. Most merely report that the boy has a well-adjusted home life, possesses athletic prowess, is nice. Many writers claim that the kid has never uttered an insensitive remark about any person’s race in his life. Again, one wonders how they know. Can there be credible witnesses whose veracity has not been strained by these charges and who can say how Morgan Manduley has behaved with his buddies or in his heart?