SAN DIEGO (CN) — Two men accused of sucker punching a Black Lives Matter protester and throwing eggs at others at a June protest were charged with hate crimes Thursday by the San Diego district attorney.
Jeffrey Brook aka Jeffrey Brooks, 38, and Henry Brooks Jr., 32, were charged with hate crimes related to a June 7 incident during a Black Lives Matter protest in the south San Diego beach community of Imperial Beach.
Jeffrey Brook, who is white, was filmed on a cellphone sucker punching long-time IB resident and business owner Marcus Boyd in the back of the head while he was filming the protest. Boyd, who is black, fell and hit the back of his head on the concrete.
Others came to Boyd’s aid, while some of the protesters chased down Brook.
Henry Brooks Jr. was accused of throwing eggs at the protesters.
The men are out of custody and have warrants out for their arrests, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office would not confirm whether the men are related, but Imperial Beach Mayor Pro Tempore Paloma Aguirre said at least one of them is a local resident and she believed they are family members.
Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina immediately called for the sheriff’s department to investigate the assault. He later stated he had personally witnessed racist violence in Imperial Beach when calling for prosecutors to file hate crime charges.
Next week the city is hosting a virtual town hall on hate crimes with District Attorney Summer Stephen and Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh, who prosecutes hate crimes in San Diego including the state’s death penalty case against accused Poway synagogue shooter John Earnest.
In 2018 and 2019, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office filed hate crime charges against 30 people, an increase from previous years.
Race-based hate crimes account for more than half of hate crimes in San Diego County, according to the office.
The District Attorney’s Office set up an online form and hotline this year for members of the public to report hate crimes after a man was arrested in an apparent Covid-19 motivated attack on a man he perceived to be Chinese-American.
“We know that people often don’t report hate crimes because of fear or shame, and we wanted to provide a direct avenue to encourage victims or witnesses to hate crimes to report,” Stephen said in a statement.
Dedina said in an interview with Courthouse News he was thankful the district attorney was “adamant” in reviewing the case to determine whether hate crime charges should be filed.
“It establishes the fact we have to reject the history of racist and white supremacist violence in Imperial Beach and make sure it never happens again,” Dedina said.
Growing up in the beach community in the 70s and 80s, Dedina said Imperial Beach was “a hotbed of white supremacist groups” like the San Diego-based Aryan Brotherhood.
Dedina said he witnessed an attack when he was 16-years-old in 1980 and the attack on Boyd was similar to those of decades prior where people of color were frequently attacked from behind on the pier.
“This is not a secret history, but something well known. People are angry we are talking about it because they are embarrassed about the history,” Dedina said. “It’s a story that needs to be told so we can be honest about why these crimes continue to happen.”
Dedina said his mayoral campaign in 2018 was marred by racism and anti-Semitism, but he decided not to publicly address it at the time.
“In retrospect, we should have,” Dedina said.
Aguirre ran for public office for the first time in 2018 and said her campaign was also tainted by threats, including one so credible the sheriff’s department recommended she not participate in a public debate.
A threatening phone call wasn’t egregious enough for charges to be filed, Aguirre told Courthouse News, but a text message by someone who said they would use an AK-47 was serious enough that a sheriff’s investigation revealed the person had illegally obtained weapons.
“The scarring was psychological and emotional knowing there are people who think and feel this way in Imperial Beach,” Aguirre said.
“I’ve heard hearsay things about the past in Imperial Beach, but I didn’t grow up there and moved there in 2003. The people who grew up there have a different picture – there were active white supremacists and biker gangs. I never felt it until I had these threats to my safety and wellbeing,” she added.