For the second time in as many weeks in Cardiff by the Sea, well-armed U.S. Marshals in unmarked vehicles pulled over and arrested a male driver. Both times the arrests occurred in front of San Dieguito Academy high school.
At 6:30 a.m. on November 4, at the corner of Santa Fe Drive at MacKinnon Avenue, two new, unmarked, blacked-out Chevy Tahoe SUVs had their concealed red-and-blue flashing lights illuminated, blocking in the man’s car.
After taking the man into custody and explaining the situation to the woman he was with, as the officers approached their vehicles, I asked the officer in the black SUV what department they were with. Climbing into his vehicle he said, "Call my boss."
With his door closing, I asked, “Are you FAT guys?” He answered, “Yes," as he closed his door. I asked both officers — the other in a silver SUV with his window down — for a contact name and phone number as both vehicles drove off the dirt lot.
FAT, the Fugitive Apprehension Team, is a little-known agency working under the California Department of Corrections. Officers are deputized U.S. Marshals. They can move between jurisdictions — cities, counties, even across state lines — to apprehend fugitives. As they stake out their suspects and make arrests, they usually don’t notify local police agencies of their presence.
According to a department of corrections spokesperson, FAT is not required to notify local authorities prior to serving warrants or making arrests; however, other agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and CHP, when involved in multi-agency task-force action, welcome local cops to assist. This avoids blue-on-blue incidents — uniformed cops shooting at plainclothes cops from other jurisdictions.
In the past, FAT has been accused of shooting first and asking questions later. Two incidents in 2013 caused the death of their suspects. A Temecula cab driver was terrorized when his fare turned out to be a staked-out fugitive. The apprehension with shots fired took place in a residential neighborhood, killing parolee John Armes. Later in the year, another parolee was publically gunned down in a parking lot at the corner of Convoy Street and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.
A similar arrest took place in Cardiff on October 26. That incident was just one block away on Santa Fe Drive at Windsor Road. While saying they appreciate the job the undercover officers have to do, a neighbor asked, “Why do they have to do this right in front of the school? Can’t they choose another area?”
While the November 4 arrest was before school hours, the one on October 26 was as students were arriving to school. Students had to walk around the three unmarked SUV police vehicles.