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.”
The next line reads, “Gloudeman has made 279 calls to the San Diego Police Department between the dates of January 2002 to present [January 2007]. A total of 110.79 man-hours have been used related to Gloudeman.”
When, on January 16, 2007, Detective Gain phoned Gloudeman to ask for a meeting, she left a message on his voicemail saying “that she didn’t like the member’s attitude of the San Diego Police Department and felt like she was being raped. Gloudeman immediately left another message on my voice mail that Lieutenant Rooney tried to hit her in the past, and the division Captain, Guy Swanger, doesn’t like her.”
Gain also details a meeting that took place between Gloudeman, himself, Kaiser, Norris, Beattie, and officer Steve Hall.
“I told her I believed she needed to come up with another tactic to solve her problems, if calling the police hundreds of times...is not helping.
The next day, Gloudeman filled up his voicemail with threats of meetings with his chief and the city council “about the way she is being treated by the police department.”
Later, Detective Gain sent the following memo to Sgt. Al Leos:
“Any calls involving…Carlos Pastenes and…Susan Gloudeman, need to have a supervisor respond. Susan Gloudeman has made numerous citizen complaints involving multiple city agencies. These residences have had an on-going dispute over five years. A supervisor should be allowed to validate the call and determine what action, if any, should be taken.”
But Gloudeman keeps calling, and the police keep coming to the Pastenes-Cruz home.
In other parts of the country, people have been arrested for using the police to harass neighbors. In August of this year, according to an Orange County, Florida, news report, a man was arrested for calling 911 a dozen times over a few months to make false claims against his neighbor. During the calls, he changed his voice and reported that he’d seen his neighbor with a gun or putting hate mail on his property. He was charged with aggravated stalking and misusing the 911 system for calling the police on his neighbor 12 times.
Despite Gloudeman’s documented 279 calls during a five-year period, she has never been arrested. In response to the question of why not, Lt. Mayer sent an email that read, “I had one of my officers check calls for service, September 1, 2014, through November 15, 2014, for the address submitted and none of the calls generated have been made through the 911 emergency line. The non emergency line, 531-2000, is meant to report non emergency calls.”
Gloudeman’s complaints have ranged from loud partying to vandalism, sex in the plumbing van, gang activity to “he’s trying to kill me.” Not once in that time has Pastenes been arrested or convicted of anything in relation to her complaints (or otherwise).
Three times, Gloudeman’s calls have resulted in Pastenes having to go to the police station to prove his innocence, once to bring paperwork to prove he was at work when Gloudeman said he tried to kill her and once to bring their dog to show his temperament. The second time, he had to pull down his pants to prove he did not have tattoos on his thighs and was therefore not the drug-dealing suspect Gloudeman said he was.
Twice, the dispute between the neighbors has escalated to physical violence. In November of 2008, Pastenes filed for battery against Gloudeman for an incident involving a garbage can flung at him. His sister witnessed the incident.
In August 2009, Pastenes filed another report of harassment against both Gloudeman sisters for an incident in which a witness claimed, “I heard noise in front of my house including yelling and honking. I looked outside to see Ms. Gloudeman and her sister sitting in their car. It was parked very close to the driver’s side of the Plaintiff’s truck, which was parked on his side of the street. From what I could see Mr. Pastenes could not get out because he was blocked in. Ms. Gloudeman and her sister remained parked and would not move their car for several minutes, and appeared to be taking pictures or videos of Pastenes as he repeatedly asked then shouted for them to move their car. They did not move.”
And still, the police keep visiting the Pastenes home on her behalf.
“She’s a normal-looking middle-aged white woman, and this is a Mexican dude,” Cruz says. “He looks very hard and rough. And they’re always assuming she’s right, and we have to prove ourselves. We have to retell the story every time.”
Others who have witnessed the ugly history between the two neighbors also suggest that race and Gloudeman’s connections with the police department may play a role in how the dispute is playing out.
“I feel like I’d be a lot more protected because I’m white. I would have more recourse with the legal system,” neighbor Jamila DeCarli says. “If you flip it, if he was doing any of this stuff to her, it would not fly. She has money, she has clout. Her sister works or worked for [the San Diego Police Department.]”
Gloudeman’s twin sister Sandra (aka “Sandy”) has a history of employment with the San Diego Police Department and lives two doors down from her.
It’s not just the police. Gloudeman has sent other city agencies to the Pastenes-Cruz home as well. “She’s sent the police department, the fire department, code compliance, waste management, and the dog catcher,” Cruz says. “She’s friends with the senior citizen patrol guys. She calls them directly.”
Neighbor Jennifer Bernal admitted hesitancy in speaking with me for fear that “[Gloudeman] will do exactly what she’s done to [Pastenes] to anybody else who tries to get in the way of what her mission is: that she will be nitpicked to death, that she’ll make false accusations, that she will come after someone and make their lives hell until she gets them out of here.”
In a 2009 document attached to a “Request for Orders to Stop Harrassment,” Gloudeman accuses Pastenes of “a continual barrage of harassment, including but not limited to honking his horn at all hours of the day and night for long periods of time, playing loud music, car alarms set off by his remote control, driving his automobiles back and forth and making loud noises with his horn and air shocks.”
The papers she filed included corroboration of her statements by no other witnesses.
A week later, when Pastenes filed for a restraining order against Gloudeman, two neighbors wrote statements on his behalf. One wrote, “My bedroom, and my kid’s room window faces Carlos’s house, and I have never been disturbed by any car alarms or loud music. I have lived here for five years, and Susan harassed everybody on this block. I don’t understand how she keeps getting away with all these things she does.”
Today, Gloudeman’s front yard is decorated with toilet-seat planters, and her trees are adorned with pink flamingos bearing toilet scrub brushes and plungers. Five or six security cameras have been affixed to the front of her house and aimed toward the Pastenes-Cruz home.
My first attempt to communicate with Gloudeman resulted in a conversation with a faceless man at her door who refused to open the metal screen door. He also refused to give his name. When I asked if the toilet-themed decor in the yard had anything to do with a dispute with a neighbor, the man asked, “Which neighbor?”
“Any neighbor at all,” I responded.
“Nope,” he said. And then he added, “It’s a crappy neighborhood.”
Neighbors speculate that the faceless man was Gloudeman’s boyfriend, whom they often see taking pictures of the Pastenes children. Another neighbor saw the boyfriend lengthening the red paint on the curb in front of their house.
Gloudeman did not respond to my next attempts at communication by phone, but in the 2008 police report (for the incident in which Pastenes accused her of battery with the garbage can), she confirmed their long-standing feud: “I have had problems with Carlos ever since he moved in,” her statement in the report reads. “I think he just tries to give me a hard time.”
The background section on that same report, written by an Officer Rodriguez, also acknowledges the “ongoing disturbance” between then-30-year-old Pastenes and then-48-year-old Gloudeman. “Police have responded numerous times in the past,” it reads.
Eventually, Gloudeman did contact me by email. In her email, she referred to Pastenes by his address and wrote that he “has had ISSUES/disputes with MANY of the surrounding neighbors,” and then listed, in numerical order, six addresses of those she claims have problems with him. Three of the neighbors she listed include herself, her sister, and her fiancé; one of the neighbors is deceased (and she listed her as such); one is a previous renter. Her email concludes that “this is not a simple matter, it has been going on for years and has nothing do with lawn decorations.”
She added a post script: “the male resident at [Pastenes’s home] has a large ESD gang tattoo on is lower leg.”
Given the number of documents detailing the history between these two neighbors, it’s surprising that any officer who shows up at the Pastenes-Cruz home would show up uninformed. By email, Lt. Kevin Mayer confirmed that responding officers should know the situation before they arrive. “It is common for law-enforcement personnel to add information to an address where there are extensive calls of service, as it helps responding officers understand the history, especially for those who have never been to the location before.”
But Lt. Mayer did not specify whether the responding officers had been informed thusly before either of their last two visits to the Pastenes home. (On October 22, 2014, Cruz says two officers came because Gloudeman said her children had been shooting BBs at Gloudeman’s home.) He did, however, explain the number of officers who came to their home on the 17th of October this year.
“The radio call I believe you are referring to had a primary unit, a cover officer, and a supervisor. One of the units had a non-sworn ride-along. This would make a total of four people with only three sworn. The call was a preserve-the-peace call.”
Last week, on November 15, at 8:30 a.m. 12 police cars showed up at the Pastenes home. Gloudeman had allegedly called screaming that she’d been shot by Pastenes. When the police found she hadn’t been shot, she showed them a red mark on her arm and said she thought maybe she’d been shot with a BB. The police came asking Pastenes if he had a BB gun, a laughable question as far as Cruz is concerned, given that they’d been through this a few weeks before.
DeCarli corroborates, stating, “Susan called the cops saying she had been shot by Carlos.... The cops emerged with their guns drawn and [Gloudeman] put on a dramatic show for them, saying she’d been shot [by a BB gun]by someone on Carlos’s property. She was inside her garage. Of course there was no evidence, and Carlos had to entertain the cops for another 45 minutes of his life.”
Pastenes says, “I’m being harassed by [Gloudeman], but the battering ram is the police. I can put up a fight to a person, but when it comes to police and city officials and city personnel, how do I fight that?”
The number of police visits to the Pastenes-Cruz home has troubled their lives to the point that they have received calls from school reporting their youngest children’s worries that their parents might be shot by the police.
“Your parents always teach you that if you’re in harm or you need some service that your dad can’t do, look for the police,” Pastenes says. “Right now, dude, I would think twice about asking for help from them.”
But he has asked the police for help. He’s been to the station “close to 50 times,” seeking redress, Cruz says. “I’ve been down there a dozen times myself. Maybe even a little bit more. “I’ve called at least a dozen times trying to ask why they can’t help us.” He has taken out a three-year mutual restraining order against her. He has contacted the city attorney. “I’ve written emails pleading for help,” Cruz says. “And nothing.”
And after all these meetings and phone calls, and all the pleading, as much as he may despise Gloudeman, the constant visits by San Diego police officers and Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol are the main source of his frustration.
The issue is a major source of frustration for neighbors, too. And it’s not just the toilets in the yard, though the neighborhood association has grumbled about them.
“Fear of retaliation is one thing,” Bernal says. But she’s willing to speak up because she abhors “the injustice that this man is being subjected to.... I know for a fact that the cops are there with a high level of frequency at his house, constantly questioning him, and then it goes to no end because it’s false, and they’re just bothering him. When he questions them about it, they’re, like, ‘We’re just doing our job.’ What part of your job is it to make sure she’s not wasting your time and mine? How much is that part of your job? More than anything, that is what I would like to see addressed.”■
— Elizabeth Salaam