La Jolla crime and public safety news: 2 sentenced in migrant’s death; home safety tips; coronavirus; blotter

Investigators look over a small boat that beached in La Jolla after it got into rough water May 20.
Investigators look over a small boat that beached in La Jolla after it got into rough water during a maritime smuggling attempt May 20. One migrant died and 15 were taken into custody.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Two sentenced to prison in death of migrant in rough water off La Jolla

The illicit ocean journey from Mexico to the United States was beset by problems from the beginning.

The simple fishing boat was overloaded with migrants trying to cross into the U.S., and the engine was no good. But after several fits and starts — including a wait in an island cave for the motor to be repaired — the decision was made to keep pressing ahead.

That decision had deadly consequences, leading to the drowning death of migrant Rogelio Perez Gutierrez, 43, in the turbulent waters off La Jolla in the predawn hours of May 20.

On Dec. 13, two men — undocumented immigrants themselves — who led the expedition in exchange for their smuggling fees were sentenced to prison.

“Somebody died, somebody is not here today, because of the risk you were willing to take,” U.S. District Judge John Houston told them before pronouncing their sentences in a San Diego courtroom.

Jose Ramon Geraldo Romero, a 24-year-old Mexican national from Baja California Sur who was looking for construction work in the U.S. and agreed to help lead the journey as a refueler, was sentenced to five years — the same term that prosecutors and defense attorneys had jointly recommended as part of plea negotiations.

Victor Alfonso Soto Aguilar, a 36-year-old San Felipe fisherman who was asked to use his experience on the water to pilot the white-and-aqua panga, was sentenced to just under six years.

“You’re the captain of the vessel,” Houston told Soto. “You’re in charge.”

Both Soto and Geraldo issued apologies to the judge and Perez’s family, expressing deep remorse for their role in the death.

Soto also wrote a letter of regret to Perez’s family: “I would like you to know that we did everything possible to save Rogelio, but unfortunately by the time we took him out of the water it was too late. I will have his death on my conscience for the rest of my life.”

Soto and Geraldo are expected to appear in court again next month for a restitution hearing to decide how much they should owe Perez’s family for costs such as burial and repatriation of his remains to Mexico. — Kristina Davis / The San Diego Union-Tribune

S.D. police give tips on keeping your home safe for the holidays

As the holiday travel season begins, the San Diego Police Department offers the following tips for keeping your home safe while you are away:

  • Lock all doors and windows, even if you will be gone only a short time. Use deadbolts, dowels or locking pins in sliding glass doors and windows to keep them from being pried open.
  • Leave window blinds and curtains in their normal daytime positions without exposing any valuable items.
  • Never announce your vacation plans or whereabouts on Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. In a 2011 survey of 50 convicted burglars in the United Kingdom, 40 said social media was being used to identify properties with absent owners.
  • Wait until you get home to post your vacation blog and photos. Remove geotags with a metadata removal tool if you publish photos on the internet while you are away. Even better, turn off the geotagging feature on your smartphone.
  • Leave lights and a TV or radio on when going out for an evening to make it appear that you are at home.
  • Use timers on lights, radios, TVs, etc., to make them go on and off during the day and night to make your home appear occupied.
  • Stop mail delivery or have a neighbor pick it up. (This also helps to prevent identity theft.) Also have a neighbor pick up anything left at your door, on your driveway or elsewhere.
  • Arrange to have packages delivered to a neighbor who will be home during the day.
  • Keep grass watered and cut. Water and trim other landscaping.
  • Ask the neighbors to watch your home and report any suspicious activities.
  • Invite a neighbor or family member to park a vehicle in your driveway.
  • Leave your itinerary with a neighbor so you can be contacted in an emergency.
  • Disconnect your electric garage door opener and padlock the door, preferably on the inside.
  • Lock or otherwise secure all pet doors that a person might crawl through.
  • Install a good side-yard gate and keep it locked at all times. Side and back entries are the most common access points for burglars.
  • Visit your local San Diego police station to request home checks while you are away.
  • Set your burglar alarm and notify your alarm company that you will be away. Then if an alarm occurs when you are away, the company will not call your home first, it will notify police directly.
  • If you have a house or pet sitter, familiarize that person with your home’s security systems and procedures and emphasize the importance of following them.

Coronavirus by the numbers

The San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency posts an updated list of coronavirus cases by ZIP code, including rates per 100,000 residents. Through Dec. 7, ZIP code 92037 had 2,425 registered cases (up by 50 from the previous count) and 5,602.4 per 100,000. ZIP code is the code of residence, which may not be the location of exposure.

The county also posts a list by ZIP code of the number of residents who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Through Dec. 7, 38,491 residents of the 92037 ZIP code had received a vaccine.

Police blotter

Nov. 22

Residential burglary: 7700 block Via Capri, 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 4

Assault with a deadly weapon (not a firearm): 700 block Prospect Street, 9:01 a.m.

Residential burglary: 7100 block Country Club Drive, noon

Residential burglary: 6500 block Muirlands Drive, 7:16 p.m.

Dec. 5

Vehicle break-in/theft: 7600 block Hillside Drive, 1:19 a.m.

Drunk in public: 1000 block Coast Boulevard South, 2:22 a.m.

Drunk in public: 500 block Bonair Way, 3:05 a.m.

Dec. 6

Felony vehicle theft: 600 block Gravilla Place, 9 a.m.

Dec. 7

Shoplifting: 800 block Pearl Street, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 10

Residential burglary: 8300 block Prestwick Drive, 12:15 a.m.

Commercial burglary: 5500 block La Jolla Boulevard, 4:30 a.m.

Vehicle break-in/theft: Coast Boulevard at Girard Avenue, 2 p.m.

Compiled by Ashley Mackin-Solomon from police and other local reports