While the War on Drugs might appear to be on the decline due to the rapid legalization of cannabis, the truth is far more insidious–it’s simply being waged on another front.
People of color–particularly those who are undocumented–find themselves increasingly targeted for drug offenses that for most Americans with access to the justice system, either privately or publicly, they are able to navigate.
Such is the case of Fernando Perez-Sanchez who was deported to Mexico in July 2016. Perez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison if convicted of sleeping inside a Bay Point marijuana grow house with a rifle at his feet, next to a life-size statue of the so-called “death saint”. The Death Saint is an iconic figure in Narco culture.
Although this arrest may seem innocuous due to the frequency of Narcopot busts, Sanchez’s arrest begs the question…is Perez simply an example of an undocumented family man at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or, as the Dept. of Homeland Security contests, is he a dangerous criminal? At the point of this writing, it appears to be the latter. Perez had been convicted in California of gun possession and taking a vehicle without consent in 2015. He was sentenced to 192 days in jail.
Perez-Sanchez’s newly acquired Federal charges stem from an incident in May of this year, when local police and homeland security agents conducted a probation search on the 2900 block of Clearland Circle, in Bay Point, records show. An affidavit drafted by one agent says the occupant gave authorities explicit permission to search the entire property.
Inside the shed was a fairly rudimentary indoor grow operation. Police found an AK-47, a pistol and two .22-caliber rifles close to where they found Perez-Sanchez sleeping, according to the affidavit.
“Immediately next to (Perez-Sanchez), there was an approximately 6-foot-tall statue of the ‘Santa Muerte’ spirit, outfitted with a tunic with U.S. currency print, and several lit candles at its feet, burning in an altar-like manner,” the agent wrote in a federal affidavit. “Based on my training and experience, I know the Santa Muerte is often venerated by individuals involved in drug trafficking, and drug traffickers often keep images of the spirit close when conducting drug trafficking activities.”
Authorities interviewed Perez-Sanchez, who told them that he was homeless and spent the previous night drinking heavily. According to Perez, this heavy drinking is what led to him falling asleep in the shed. Perez contested repeatedly that he was unaware of the marijuana grow operation. However, an individual who later identified himself as Perez’s coworker soon blew that alibi to shit when they stopped by the home and said he’d been picking up Perez-Sanchez there for weeks.
Agents conducted DNA swabs on the guns and may ask federal prosecutors to file additional charges when the results come back. If convicted Perez faces up to ten years in Federal prison.
My name is Petey Wheatstraw, also known as Charles Stevens. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived off and on in the Bay Area since 1996. Seven years ago I finally settled here to capture the changing face of our communities.