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— In January 2005, Alan Inn bought 816 acres in Ocotillo Wells, smitten with the desert’s rugged beauty. A general contractor with experience ranging from residential remodeling to government projects, Inn planned to build a “wellness center” and resort.

Ocotillo Wells has been an off-roaders’ sandbox for many years. The Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, 80,000 acres of washes and hills, is located just north of Inn’s land, across Highway 78. Inn knew that off-roaders came onto his property, even camping in large numbers on the 70-acre level bit along the highway, but he did not mind.

That autumn, spending weekends at the site, Inn began to develop his land. He put up fence on the western property line. He drilled a well. He bought a 10,000-gallon water tank, a submersible pump, and a small generator. By the end of the year he had a trailer on the land and a bulldozer, backhoe, motor grader, more water tanks, and a truck.

But as the days grew cooler and more off-roaders arrived to spend their weekends in the desert, Inn found that he was being vandalized. Thieves unplugged his well lines and stole his generator, compressor, pumps, and power washer. Inn reported these problems to the local sheriff’s office, and Deputy William Painter came out to take a report.

Inn decided that off-roaders were no longer welcome on his property. He put up more than 50 No Trespassing signs and a dozen Off-Road Activity Prohibited signs given to him by the deputy, attaching them to fence where he could or to posts placed where established trails came onto his land. Inn dug ditches to delineate his property in some areas that were not yet fenced.

More vandalism occurred in early 2006. Fire extinguishers taken from the motor grader were discharged into it. A large rock was thrown through the trailer window. The western fence line was cut in a dozen places. In two encounters with bikers in the spring, Inn learned that the vandalism wasn’t just malicious mischief but an effort to stop him from developing his land.

Inn bought five more 10,000-gallon water tanks. In May, vandals poured gasoline on them, burning two; they shot the other tanks full of bullet holes. This time Deputy Carlos Medina came out.

Inn, who was 60 at this time, started life in a small town in Turkey, immigrating to the United States at 23 to attend college in New Jersey. He became a U.S. citizen when he was 30. He still speaks with a slight accent.

The conversation Inn had on May 13, 2006, with Deputy Medina, as Inn tried to obtain answers on how to protect his property, would lead, Inn believes, directly to the events at the end of the year, when Inn would be arrested for assault. Deputy Medina’s testimony in court, two years later, would not support Inn’s version of the day.

Inn says he asked the deputy how to stop the vandalism, and Deputy Medina replied, “Should I be watching after your property?” The sheriff’s office in Borrego Springs has only two deputies on patrol at any time to watch over 700 square miles.

Inn says he asked if he could become a “volunteer deputy and be given a badge so that I could arrest vandals if I caught them.” He says that Deputy Medina replied, “That’s not going to happen.”

Then, Inn says, the deputy suggested he could make a citizen’s arrest.

“How could I accomplish that?” Inn says he asked. “Can I shoot their tires flat so they don’t get away?”

“What if you shot them?” Inn says Medina replied.

Today Inn says, “I said I would never do that; taking life belongs to God. I asked him again if I could shoot their tires flat. He told me he could not give me advice and that I should do what I needed to do.”

More trouble occurred on October 15. As Inn installed fence, he heard motorcycles and went to investigate. He found eight bikers. Leaning out the window of his truck, Inn motioned to them to stop, told them they were on private property, and said he was trying to keep everybody out because of the vandalism.

Two of the bikers, Jaime Chausee and Joe Albertelli, testified at Inn’s trial that they saw no signs and did not know they were on private land.

“One of them asked me if I was the one who was digging those ditches,” Inn says. Two bikers in the group had crashed into a ditch. They apparently considered the ditches a booby trap. “I told him yes, that was the property line. And until I catch up with the fencing, I am digging the ditches to discourage intruders.”

Chausee then angrily said, “I’ll bury you in those ditches! With your own shovel!”

Inn jumped out of his truck, grabbing a pistol he had resting on the front seat. He demanded that Chausee remove his helmet, so he could see who was threatening him. He repeated this demand several times, finally smacking the side of Chausee’s helmet with his free hand. At this point, all the bikers took off their helmets. Albertelli later testified that he could see bullets in the chambers of the revolver that Inn held, although Inn swears the gun was not loaded.

“Eventually I told them to leave and do not ever return,” Inn says. He hoped the bikers would spread the word that the property was private. Instead they reported Inn to the sheriff.

“Sheriff Medina came and questioned me about the incident,” Inn says. “I told him what happened, and he told me that the off-roaders had told him the same thing and he told them, ‘You threatened the guy on his own property. What did you expect him to do?’ I thanked him for standing up for me.”

According to Inn, “When I told [the deputy] my gun was not loaded, with shock in his voice he asked me, ‘What if they pulled a gun on you and shot you?’ I said, ‘How would they know it was not loaded?’ He repeated the question, ‘What if they pulled a gun on you and shot you?’ And he advised me not to point an empty gun at people. I thought about it and started to load my gun from that point on.”

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Comments

qqqqqjim July 23, 2008 @ 6:56 p.m.

As a long-time SD resident, I enjoyed offroading for many years at Ocotillo Wells and have found most offroaders to be extremely responsible people. But it is this type of activity that I don't miss. I now live in the Houston area because of my job. I can't imagine anyone in Texas creating the type of malicious activity, if true, that occurred on Mr. Inn's property.

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1904dunerider July 26, 2008 @ 9:23 a.m.

have u ever even been to ocotillo wells? imo this guy is in the wrong. i mean he bought land right smack in the middle of where people ride. i mean there is a wash that leads right into his land. then because u cant afford to put up a fence your going to dig huge ditchs around your prop right where people ride though. are you trying to kill someone?

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bluenwhitegokart July 26, 2008 @ 4:04 a.m.

Prosecuter Daly is a perfect example of how women have ruined this country; how they have 'pussified' us to the point where no other nation in the entire world has any respect for us. Punks like those bikers are raised by women to feel that they have a perfect right to say and do and go anywhere they damn well please, and if you interfere with them, then you are the bad guy. Women have made it so that you cannot even defend you life, your property, or anyone else's, for fear that it is one of their precious little darlings you might shoot in that defense. And no, I don't hate women. In fact, I absolutely adore women. I simply don't have any illusions that they are all perfect goddesses without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. They are absolutely out of control, but who's going to stop them? Certainly not us pussified American males. The worst part is, they've reshaped us in their own image, and now they despise us for it.

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banjojacko July 27, 2008 @ 9:11 p.m.

There are several issues raised by this story. First: The property owner was in the wrong, because when you buy a piece of undeveloped property in a rural area and some part of it has been used for recreational purposes by the public for over 5 years a public easement exists. That's the law under the California Civil Code, and several centuries of English common law. If a neighbor starts parking his car on the edge of your property, or takes a short cut across your lawn to his back door, or builds a fence several feet into your property, you have to notify them that you are not granting easemment and that right of access and passage is revocable. (You send them a certified letter, or you put up signs to that effect.) If you suddenly build a fence blocking the neighbor's short-cut across your lawn to his house, he can take you to court and ask to have an "Easement by Prescription" attached to your deed, and the court will order you to remove the obstruction. (That's if the neighbor has been using the short-cut for over 5 years, without any objection by you.) In the present case, the property owner had no right to put up obstructions, dig ditches and install fencing, and no trespassing signs, when the public had been using part of the property for decades before he bought it.

However, on the other hand, San Diego juries are notoriously biased in favor of the prosecution. We have 98% conviction rates in jury trials in this county. 90% of the judges are former prosecutors, and favor the prosecution in rulings from the bench. Typically, this is reflected by the Judge limiting the evidence and testimony that the defense can present to the jury. In this instant case the defendant's fate was sealed when the Judge prevented the defense from showing that the Defendant had asked Deputy Medina what he needed to do to make a citizen's arrest. That was a crucial point for the defense. It would have shown that Inn, wasn't acting in a state of rage, but was attempting to make a citizen's arrest and had previously sought information from a law officer, on how to do it properly. So, on the surface it seemed as though Inn had received a fair trial--but the truth is that the system was rigged against him. Even the Jury probably went away feeling good about nailing this "maniac" with a gun--completely clueless to the fact that crucial evidence had been kept from them by the Court.

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Driverz July 28, 2008 @ 11:40 p.m.

I read the article on the convicted felon Mr. Alan Inn who committed a felony of assault with a deadly weapon. This article strikes me as an unfair portrait of off road riders. Mr. Alan Inn’s Wisdon Ministry property is NOT PROPERLY FENCED and IS NOT POSTED as private property. I have visited this property many times from 2005 to 2008.

As a homeowner and landowner, I truly feel sorry for Mr. Alan Inn’s misfortunes. However, his approach on developing the land and his approach on pointing and shooting a gun are all wrong. If you unknowingly crossed a property line, do you deserve to be threatened, assaulted and shot at? I don’t think so.

Mr. Alan Inn basically is taking out his frustrations on motorcyclists who are riding 30 year old established trails. Mr. Alan Inn only fenced one side of the Wisdon Ministries property (the west side). Therefore, everyone traveling East to West became trapped and here Mr. Alan pulled his gun and assaulted them. There were NOT adequate “no Trespassing” signs posted by Alan Inn. Even if he did place 50 signs as he says, the odds of seeing one in a > 1 mile square property are slim. The land is over 1 mile square! It is hilly rocky terrain that only off road motorcycles can access. You can enter Mr. Alan’s property and never know it until you travel one mile and reach the west fence. That is where Mr. Alan Inn pulled his gun and fired shots.

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Driverz July 28, 2008 @ 11:47 p.m.

Let’s look at Mr. Alan Inn’s so called development of these picturesque bad lands in Ocotillo Wells. (San Diego County) If you view the satellite images in 2004 and 2008, you will see that Mr. Alan Inn is heavily grading this property.

1) The article describes Mr. Alan Inn as a developer who wants to build a wellness center and resort in the middle of the desert next to an 80,000+ acre off-road park and surrounded by privately owned property utilized by off roaders. Doesn’t this Wellness and resort story sound fishy? What is Mr. Alan Inn’s property zoned for? a. Who in their right mind would build or visit a wellness resort at this location? It is 110+ degrees in the summer and prone to high winds throughout the year. And, yes it is one of the few official off road parks with 1000’s of riders camping and riding every weekend. That means it is very noisy. Not a good place for a wellness center and resort. b. Why is Mr. Alan Inn’s property owned under the name of Wisdon Ministries? c. If he is a developer, why did he not procure the required permits in January 2005 for …. --Grading (over 200 yards requires a permit) Mr. Alan Inn has moved 10,000’s of yards illegally. He has topped several large hills. He has bulldozed so much that it just makes you wonder how he gets away with it. This is ridiculous. For over two years he and a laborer have used a large Dozer, a Grader, a backhoe, water truck and fuel truck to destroy these picturesque bad lands. You can never restore the damage that has been done by Mr. Alan Inn and Wisdon Ministries. --Well Permit and 5 water tanks (where is the approved permit?) --Construction Trailer (no permit) --Underground burial from the well to five 10,000 gallon water tanks at top of graded hill --B&P’s Environmental Control (nothing) Even after his arrest, Mr. Alan continued to bull doze these picturesque bad lands without any permits or regard for the San Diego County Planning, land use and building requirements. 2) The San Diego County Planning and Building Department have been aware of Alan Inn’s illegal activities. It was officially and properly reported to them in 2005. An official case number exists. Supervisor Horn’s office was even copied. What have they done to stop this activity since it was reported in 2005? It appears, nothing…. 3) In summary, I totally agree with the prosecutor and the jurors. These motorcycle riders are working people obeying the law. They unknowingly entered a trap set by Mr. Alan Inn. In that trap, Mr. Alan Inn assaulted them with a gun. “RAGE WITH A GUN”

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 1, 2008 @ 4:27 p.m.

However, on the other hand, San Diego juries are notoriously biased in favor of the prosecution. We have 98% conviction rates in jury trials in this county.

That is not true-maybe for misdemeanors ONLY, but not an overall blended rate with felonies.

In fact It most likely below 90%.

And the ONLY reason it would even 90% is because the DA won't even file unless her chances of winning are over 95%.

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Rider_and_Owner May 15, 2009 @ 6:07 p.m.

Ahh, another soapbox! Several items: First full disclosure; I ride Ocotillo Wells as well as have land there. Second It is not ten thousand visitors. On a good weekend there are over 200,000 visitors to the OWSVRA! When we were kicked out of AB State park in the 70’s the OWSVRA was too small now the traffic can be downright dangerous. Let’s take back Anza Borrego!

Also, I have also personally chatted with Alan on several occasions. He seemed like a reasonable guy. But, In a golf community there are golf balls, in an off road one there are bikes and buggies. Blocking watercourses, making booby traps (I have encountered), Barbed wire (cattle?), and firing at a vehicle when it poses no threat to you is a recipe for everyone to lose. (Anyone that cannot put a hole in a bike tire at point blank range should NOT be holding a loaded gun).

Aditionally the posting by Banjojacko is not quite correct. But, just because you hold title to land does not mean you get to do whatever you want to do with it. There could be an Implied easement for adjoining landowners, there could be a case for an implied easement for the public on a specific path through or around, but a recreational prescriptive easement that would cover the entire property is not something that is real or possible. Additionally an easement is not recorded on "The Deed" it is "deeded" and recorded once thus many landowners do not know that an easement exists if their title company did not do a proper search or they bought the land with a proper title search.

Easement talk aside there are ways to be a good neighbor and ways to not be one in rural America. There are several parcels that have accommodated the off road traffic by providing routes along or through their property while fencing off the bulk of it. Everyone wins.

Land owners, if you do not have a complete chain of title back to 1850 AND the permission of all parcel owners further than you from a public road DO NOT fence to the edges of your property. (Easement legal action is >$80k a pop.) Everyone except the Lawyer loses…

Also if you are riding through or around someone’s private property show some respect! Those that did not in Riverside County got banned from the county completely! The SVRA and the BLM land is the riding area! Yes that parcel is a great piece of land for riding. How about us off roaders do as the Nature Conservancy does (not the STEALarra club) and buy it and grant a permanent public easement for riding. Everyone wins.

Off roaders, stop whining and get active. Buy some land and spend some of that beer money on a membership to an off road organization.

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SurfPuppy619 May 17, 2009 @ 9:06 a.m.

Additionally an easement is not recorded on "The Deed"

Who told you that lie-easements are recorded on deeds all the time.

Land owners, if you do not have a complete chain of title back to 1850 AND the permission of all parcel owners further than you from a public road DO NOT fence to the edges of your property. (Easement legal action is >$80k a pop.) Everyone except the Lawyer loses…

Another nonsense statement. Any owner of real property has the right to fence off their property.

If someone claims an easment by prescription then THEY have the burden of proof, not the land owner.

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