On Thursday, October 17, approximately one hour after Juan Carlos Pastenes arrived home from work, five police officers showed up at his home. The 36-year-old Pastenes sighed, opened the door, and before the officers could announce their purpose, he asked for their badge numbers. He advised them to go brush up on their history and come back when they’d done their homework. Then he shut the door.
When Pastenes’s wife Krysten Cruz came home, the officers had just left. She called dispatch, said she wanted to talk to a sergeant to find out what the issue was, why the police had come to her this time. She spoke with Sgt. E. Lynch. “He basically said he was there because Susan [Gloudeman, a neighbor] needed cops there to preserve the peace,” Cruz tells me. “She needed to go to the garage to get stuff out. Supposedly, we were yelling obscenities at her, but mind you, I was at work.”
Cruz apprised Lynch of her family’s troubled history with Gloudeman because, she says, “He said he wasn’t aware of the situation.”
This ignorance (feigned or otherwise) on the part of the San Diego Police Department has become a more troubling matter to Pastenes and Cruz than the specific issues they have with their neighbor, especially given that they have piles of documents detailing the long-standing dispute. The documents include restraining orders, a letter from the city attorney, and an investigator’s police report that refers to harassment and the filing of false reports on Gloudeman’s part.
While it’s not uncommon for clashes between neighbors to escalate to the point of police involvement, details of the trouble between Pastenes and Gloudeman raise the question: at what point does the city’s continued involvement become harassment itself?
The way Pastenes tells it, the bad blood goes back to 2006, the first night he moved into the City Heights neighborhood known as Fox Canyon, across Lantana Drive from Gloudeman.
“People were coming over, bringing me cupcakes, wine, beer, the whole welcome-to-the-neighborhood type thing,” he says. “And then [Gloudeman] comes in and says, ‘How is it you get to live here?’ I’m, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And she’s, like, ‘Well, what are you? You’re either a gang member or a drug dealer.’ I was, like, ‘Lady, do me a favor and get the fuck out of my property.’”
We’re standing outside Rosa Parks Field at the City Heights Recreation Center, where he has just finished coaching at his 12-year-old son’s soccer practice. His son Charlie sits near us on the grass next to a large net sack of soccer balls.
“She calls the police on me for anything and everything,” he says. “She calls for noise complaints. If I have more than two people outside my house, she says there are gang members at my house.”
The accusations are unfounded. The 5-foot-7-inch plumber resents that he has to constantly prove that he’s not a gang member, that his associates are not gang members, that he’s not up to no good just because his neighbor says he is.
“At this point, it’s not even a harassment thing, it’s a racial thing. Whenever she calls to make a police report, the police have told me, it’s always, ‘The Mexican, the wetback, the beaner,’” he says. And while he does find the racial epithets disturbing, especially when aimed at his children, it’s the combination of the accusations plus the frequency with which she calls the police that most concerns him.
“Dude, I own a business. I have ten employees. I have never been in any kind of lifestyle like that,” he says. “What, because I’m Mexican, I’m automatically a gang member? I’m a taxpayer.”
After the initial meeting between the two neighbors on the day Pastenes moved in, their antagonistic relationship took on momentum. Pastenes began getting visits from the police to his home and complaint calls to his work. An administrator at his job at the time with TCP plumbing documented a call from “Susan” in late September 2006: “She said to me that she has already called the police on this van for no license plate. She was actually very proud of the fact that she called the police and that she will do it every chance she gets. Susan was very nasty and rude. She called Carlos a prick.”
On January 10, 2007, Gloudeman filed a vandalism complaint against Pastenes in which she accused him of “throwing cabbage and eggs at her residence,” according to a report filed by detective Mark S. Gain.
“Gloudeman insinuated her sister is a police officer, I asked her to tell me who her sister is, she reluctantly told me her sister is a secretary at Eastern Division, Sandy Gloudeman,” the report reads.
And then in the next paragraph, “Gloudeman also told me she had her friend Jessie Navarro, from the District Attorneys Office, help her when the police can’t. I asked her what Jessie did for her? She told me ‘when a blond with fake boobs cries on your shoulder, he’ll do anything I want.’”
The report goes on to convey a discussion with Jessie Navarro, who said he had spoken to Gloudeman by phone but that he had never done anything for her. The report also mentions accusations against Pastenes, that he is a gang member and has no driver’s license. The end of that paragraph concludes that Pastenes “is not a gang member per ONS [Officer Notification System] or ARJIS [Automated Regional Justice Information System]; Juan [Carlos Pastenes] has a valid California driver’s license, Juan also has no criminal arrests or contacts.”
Gain also details in the report the discussion he had with Pastenes, in which “he stated she is constantly calling the police on him…told me Gloudeman is also calling his work and speaking to his superiors about him…if he walks out into his front yard, Gloudeman takes pictures of him…feels Gloudeman is constantly harassing him.”
Gain also mentions a neighbor whom he says “has personally heard Gloudeman use racial slurs towards Juan’s kids”; as well as a Lt. Monica Kaiser, who gave the detective “a brief history on Gloudeman and the problems she has had with neighbors in the past”; and community relations officer Pat Norris, who “is very familiar with Gloudeman and recommended that we run calls for service that she has made to the police department”; and deputy city attorney Kristin Beattie, who “was also very familiar with Gloudeman…has personally heard Gloudeman make inappropriate sexual comments…and told me to make sure a female was present at our meeting.”