LANCASTER – In the 36 hours leading up to today’s election, most candidates were likely making the final push for supporters.
But mayoral candidate David Grajeda was sitting in a jail cell for at least four of those hours.
In his latest brush with the law, Grajeda was arrested late Sunday night and jailed briefly on suspicion of violating a family court restraining order that bans him from talking to his ex-girlfriend or seeing his child. Authorities said Grajeda approached his ex and her new beau outside a movie theater, followed them, and then challenged the man to a fight. Read the Palmdale Station news release here.
Grajeda said he was not a threat and maintained his innocence early Tuesday morning.
“I didn’t challenge him to a fight or threaten like I was going to kick his ass or any of that,” Grajeda said.
Grajeda said he had just gotten off work, as a dishwasher in a nearby restaurant, when he walked over to the Cinemark Movie Theater to reminisce about the first date he had with his former girlfriend. He says, at that point, he spotted the two exiting the theater and was more hurt than angry.
“I didn’t have my arms up like I was going to fight him… I just wanted him to understand how I felt as a man, and how upset I was that he was getting into my family’s business,” Grajeda said, adding that his ex’s new boyfriend had previously lashed out at him on the Internet. “He opened the car door, grabbed a Taser and shot me with it. He committed an act of violence when all I was doing was expressing my frustrations to him.”
Expressing frustrations has gotten Grajeda into a lot of trouble over the past year.
Six months ago, Grajeda was arrested and jailed for 16 days for expressing frustrations at a Criminal Justice Commission meeting. (View video of his actions here.) Two months before that, Grajeda was arrested and jailed overnight for a frustrated outburst at the opening of the Laemmle Theatre on The Blvd. And in the months leading up to that arrest, Grajeda attended almost every City Council meeting solely to express his frustrations with the way the current leadership handled business.
Still, Grajeda insists that he is neither troublemaker nor rabble rouser.
“I am completely misunderstood,” Grajeda says.
David Grajeda was born on August 4, 1985. He is the youngest of his six brothers and has lived in the Antelope Valley, on and off, since he was two years old.
Grajeda said he attended several Antelope Valley schools growing up, including Chaparral Elementary, Tumbleweed Elementary, and Cactus Elementary and Middle School, and then bounced around to several different high schools, getting in trouble in each one.
“I wasn’t really doing anything in high school, I didn’t participate at all and I had straight Fs,” Grajeda said.
He said he finally quit school altogether at age 16, opting to taking his high school equivalency test, instead.
“Learning doesn’t start in school, and I did feel like what they were teaching didn’t really matter as far as pursuing a job,” Grajeda said. After quitting school, Grajeda admittedly lost his way for several years.
By the time he was 22, he had racked up two felony convictions – one in 2003 (at age 18) for receiving stolen property and another in 2006 for having sex with a minor.
“At the age of 20, and she was 17,” Grajeda said. “I didn’t really know at the time how old she was nor did I even care. I was young and naïve.”
He said he’s served his time and has always been honest about his felony convictions.
“I’m not a registered sex offender, I’m not a child molester or any of those things,” Grajeda said. “I did 10 months in state prison… when I got out, I just tried to focus on doing better for myself, and then I met the mother of my child and I wanted to get better for her. It’s been a slow progression.”
Grajeda said he worked a series of manual labor jobs after his release from state prison — doing studio grip work, installing concrete, operating heavy equipment, removing asbestos, and working as a certified lifeguard for the Red Cross.
His daughter was born in the spring of 2011, and he says the milestone indirectly spurred his involvement in city politics. Grajeda said shortly before his daughter’s birth, he was applying for Food Stamps to support his new family when he was randomly searched for drugs by deputies at the Department of Social Services in Lancaster. Upset and feeling violated, Grajeda said he attended a Lancaster City Council meeting to address the issue with Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris.
But Parris was unsympathetic, Grajeda said. “He told me the Sheriff’s Department should be more aggressive,” Grajeda added. He said the encounter set him off on a mission to police City leaders.
“I figure if I have to go through scrutiny as an average citizen trying to go about my daily life… then the Mayor and the City Council will have to go through my scrutiny as a public citizen wanting to learn what they’re doing,” Grajeda said. “I’m going to find out what you’re doing wrong and I’m going to address it during my public comment.”
He said he researched state laws, city ordinances, and council agendas, and began to regularly attend city council meetings, speaking on every agenda item, and pointing out what he believed to be wrongdoings by the council and the mayor.
“For example, I researched the check registry, the money they were spending and what money goes where,” Grajeda said. “They paid almost $250,000 a year in advertisement to the AV Press…they spent $10,000 at Lemon Leaf, they spend thousands of dollars at Bex…”
“They bought millions of dollars in homes that weren’t upside down and were a good investment, and then they spent millions of dollars in the properties rehabbing them and now they’re upside down… now we have over 140 idle properties,” Grajeda continud.
He said when he brought these issues before the council, he was routinely ignored. But he believes his message sunk in, because he says City officials began to harass him in other ways.
On August 11, 2011, during the opening of the Laemmle Theatre on The BLVD, Grajeda said he stood behind one of the camera men on the red carpet and watched as City leaders gave interviews. He said when it was the Mayor’s turn, things took a turn for the worse.
“He[Parris] turned to the sheriffs and said ‘somebody get this piece of garbage out of here, I’m not doing this interview until somebody gets this piece of garbage out of here,’” Grajeda said, adding that he only began hurling insults when he was dragged away. He admits to calling the mayor a crook several times.
Grajeda was promptly arrested for disturbing the peace and spent the night in jail. He claims shortly after that arrest he was blackmailed by Lancaster Station Captain Bob Jonsen, who said he could make the charge go away if Grajeda agreed not to attend any more council meetings. (Jonsen denies this allegation.)
Grajeda said things came to a head for him when he received word that Captain Jonsen had indirectly communicated with the mother of his child to dig up information on him. Grajeda said he was expressing his frustrations on this issue at the Criminal Justice Commission meeting on October 12, 2011 (view video his actions here).
“It just got to the point where my emotions were just running really high and I felt like what they were doing was completely unfair,” Grajeda said.
Grajeda was arrested on Oct. 25 for disturbing a public meeting, jailed for 16 days before bailing out, and then hit with a restraining order barring him from City Hall. He is still fighting the misdemeanor charge in court, with jury trial set for April 23. He says his decision to run for mayor is partly due to that incident, as well as everything else that’s happened to him since he began speaking out at council meetings.
“[I want] to prove a point that not only do I have a right to speak, I also have a right to run for Mayor,” Grajeda said. “If people vote for me it’s because they have no faith in the current administration.”
Grajeda said, if elected, he will get to work right away on settling the city’s many lawsuits, opening up city hall to the local community, liquidating bad assets acquired through redevelopment, imposing salary caps on the city manager and deputy city manager positions, and controlling the city’s spending.
“We have to stop all this nonsense spending and all this favoritism,” Grajeda said. “There’s four to five hundred million dollars of debt… That money went somewhere, so I’m curious to see where that money went. How much did certain individuals profit? I want full transparency and accountability.”
“I will do the best I can, and I will do a great job,” Grajeda continued.
This is the last of the profiles The AV Times has published featuring Lancaster mayoral and city council candidates. We previously published profiles featuring mayoral candidates David Abber and David Paul and council candidates John Kiramis, Michael Rives, Isaac Grajeda, Ken Mann and Sandra Johnson. Profiles were published in random order. Regrettably, we were unable to sit with incumbent mayoral candidate R. Rex Parris to conduct an interview before today’s election. If he is elected, we will conduct a post interview with Parris and publish his profile.