EDITOR'S NOTE : EDITOR’S NOTE : Joe Orellana is a San Diego-based photojournalist. You can find his work at https://www.joeorellana.com/. You can tip him for his work at $joeorephoto on cashapp and send him tips on events to photograph at Photo@joeorellana.com.
On September 30th, an SDPD officer with a history of racist commentary on social media attempted to tail a protester back to their home. At an anti-police brutality protest in front of SDPD Central Division Substation that evening, officer Adam Devor got into and escalated verbal disputes with protestors, then proceeded to try to follow one protester home in an apparent attempt at intimidation. LCRW received a first-hand account from the protester in question, and a video taken by the protester’s partner while confronting Devor near the activists’ home.
Protests against systemic racism and police violence at different SDPD substations have become frequent since nationwide anti-police brutality protests took off last summer in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. On September 30th at SDPD’s Central Division, protesters were calling for the firing of officers Aguilar and Tasior—the former having racially profiled and pulled over a black man without cause, the latter having assaulted a citizen who attempted to film the bad stop. Signage on this night centered around SDPD’s racism problem and the officers in question. One officer, walking through the parking garage in plain clothes, tore down a sign that read “Fire Tazior.” The officer did not identify themselves or respond to protesters.
Devor first enters the picture by coming to a rapid stop on Imperial Avenue, in front of the gate where protesters were demonstrating. I was crouching down to get a shot of the signs in front of the station when I heard Devor’s cruiser speeding and coming to an abrupt stop. I turned and backed up to photograph him as he confronted protesters. One protester was imploring Devor to slow down in an aggravated tone. Devor, following his rapid stop, feigned concern for the protesters by asking if they need help. He further said he thought the protester had been flagging him down. The protester asked Devor what he’s doing out, and if he’d been drinking. After making light of the encounter, Devor sped away, rapidly accelerating while the protester was mid-sentence. Some time later, Devor repositioned his cruiser opposite the central division substation at a gas station across the street. Devor parked facing the road, across from the bus stop in front of the police station. A protester noticed this, and used a discarded box near the bus stop as a makeshift ACAB sign. The box-sign was placed directly in Devor’s line of sight.
As protesters shouted at Devor for parking across the street from the protest and lurking, Devor shouted back and escalated the exchange. Here is a selection of Devor’s statements: “I like your art project,” which was alluding to the chalk messaging outside the police station; “You need the police,” in response to criticisms of policing; and “What should I do then?” in response to protesters claiming police don’t help the community, and so on. One protester shouted back at the officer that he should become an educator if he wants to help the community. He responded that he “educates the community on the law.” Devor stopped an unhoused resident as they passed by his cruiser and asked them what they thought of the protest. I didn’t hear the resident’s response, but a protester asked the officer what he’s doing to help the unhoused. The officer said SDPD has a team for homeless outreach—which activists on the ground have characterized as both inadequate and carceral. Notably, Devor shouts his badge number when protesters ask for it: 7245.
As protesters were dispersing, Devor parked next to the police station and exited his vehicle. He walked by me, said excuse me, and took down the banner pictured below. He returned to his vehicle, presumably with the banner in tow. Devor maneuvered his vehicle into the street and attempted to follow protesters to their cars. Devor was at a distance, but not trying to hide, and so protesters made a turn at the intersection of Imperial and 26th. Devor drove ahead, partway through the intersection, and turned around to park. Moments later, a protester I’ll refer to as Shannon got to their vehicle while the cruiser was parked just up the road. Shannon pulled out, and began to drive away at a safe speed. Devor immediately accelerated to pursue Shannon’s vehicle, at which point it broke my line of sight. Shannon contacted me with an account of the events.
Shannon’s account depicts an officer following an innocent protester as they made turns to try and conceal their route home. At one point, Shannon parked to assess the situation, and the cruiser lingered a few hundred feet behind them–Devor was not parked, but idling in the road.
Shannon resumed driving and got on the freeway. Devor immediately followed, and on the freeway transitioned from tailgating to following at a distance. Again, Devor did not seem to be concealing his presence.
Shannon was able to alert their partner to Devor’s pursuit. Shannon drove four miles to their neighborhood, where they were able to lose the officer with the help of their partner. Their partner, whom I’ll refer to as Edward, filmed their encounter with Devor. I’ve received this video, and edited it to protect Edward’s identity.
Notably, the opening portion of the video shows a car matching the make and model of what Shannon was driving when they left the protest. The video also shows the license plate of the cruiser is a match for Devor’s previous two encounters with protesters. Devor again gives his badge number, and this time he gives his name. He feigns ignorance and speaks in a condescending tone–as if allegations of stalking and intimidation are too absurd to entertain.
Received video of officer Devor being confronted on 9/30. Officer Devor had followed a protester’s vehicle roughly four miles from the SDPD central division. I have edited the video to protect the cameraperson’s identity. pic.twitter.com/MDuONqQX0z— Joe Orellana (@joeorephoto) October 4, 2021
The above image, a still from the video, shows that the same cruiser that left the protest is the one that followed Shannon. The license plate number is the same: 1413918. Devor begins to give his badge number again, but only getting the first two digits in. I had attempted to match the badge number I heard that night to a name before I received this video. That Devor gave a name which matches publicly available badge data cross-referenced with salary data from CalSalaries confirms this is the same officer who was harassing protesters earlier that night.
Shannon had not broken any laws while in my line of sight, and was not pulled over or cited for any traffic violations.
CalSalaries indicates that Devor was hired in 2014, and was paid over $190,000 in 2019. His income is $150,000 more than the median income of the average resident of Logan Heights residents—one of several impoverished, majority POC communities that this officer patrols.
Devor’s public Twitter account roughly confirms his hiring date: he speaks of entering the police academy in that same year. His twitter includes mostly celebrity follows, but also one account dedicated to archiving the tweets of former president Donald Trump. Devor was even featured in a KUSI video in a 2018 article titled “San Diego Police Department conducts pedestrian and bicycle safety enforcement operations.” In a video embedded in the article, officer Devor stops two pedestrians: the first was cited for jaywalking, and the second received a warning for operating an electric scooter on the sidewalk.
“How would you get a 400 pound man in handcuffs? Sweet talk doesn’t work. #ICantBreathe,” he wrote.
This tweet was sent in December, five months after Garner’s death. The hashtag confirms that this is in fact a reference to the death of Eric Garner. Furthermore, this tweet was sent mere months after Devor’s hiring. Given the background checks that are performed on officers prior to hire, it’ unlikely that SDPD is unaware of Devor’s Twitter profile. Prior to his racist comments about Eric Garner, Devor tweeted about why he loves being a cop:
“I have the best job in the world. I get paid to shoot guns and learn to fight,” he said.
SDPD has not responded to my request for comment.
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