When OC District Attorney, Todd Spitzer, takes over two years to investigate the murder of a Black man by Sheriff’s deputies, while at the same time moves swiftly to charge and prosecute a Black woman who defended herself against white supremacists attacking her, puts her in jail on a million dollar bail, violates her due process rights during trial, and insists on re-filing charges against her, you better believe he has a serious case of anti-Blackness.
On February 7, 2022, the OCDA cleared the two Sheriff’s deputies who killed Kurt Reinhold, an unhoused Black man, in San Clemente on September 23, 2020. On January 12, 2022, OCDA re-filed charges against Tia Turner, a Black woman, who defended herself against white supremacists’ attack on September 26, 2020, in Yorba Linda. The murder of Mr. Reinhold and the arrest of Ms. Turner were three days apart. Ms. Turner was arrested immediately, although no one was killed when she defended herself. She spent one year in jail after Spitzer set her bail at one million dollars. The case against Tia was dismissed toward the end of last year due to violations of her due process rights, only for OCDA to re-file it last month. If convicted, Tia faces 26 years to life in prison. The two Sheriff’s deputies who killed Mr. Reinhold returned to duty the next day, to the horror of the unhoused community in San Clemente.
To put the prosecution of Tia in context, it should be noted that when an angry mob of white supremacists surrounded and attacked her car, she called 911. Although 120 Sheriff’s deputies were present at the scene, Tia didn’t get any assistance and had no other option but to drive away to save her life. As she did, she accidentally injured two of the attackers who had jumped in front of her car trying to stop her from leaving. By contrast, on June 3, 2020, Don Wallace, a white man from Newport Beach, drove his car through a peaceful #BLM protest in the city. There are no public records indicating Mr. Wallace was ever charged or even held by the police beyond his initial arrest at the scene.
Todd Spitzer’s anti-Black rhetoric mirrors his anti-Black actions. The launch of his re-election campaign on January 26, 2022, is one example. Spitzer launched his campaign on the exact county line between LA and Orange counties to underscore his racist campaign slogan #NoLAinOC. This loaded slogan/dog whistle is part and parcel of OC’s recent racist past, when white supremacy was celebrated and men in white hoods paraded the streets and ran the county. This is the Orange County Todd Spitzer invokes with his campaign slogan. This is what he’s fighting for: An openly racist county.
Spitzer’s racist comments reported this week are a perfect example of how his racist, anti-Black rhetoric and action converge. In considering whether to seek the death penalty for a Black man recently, Spitzer brought up the race of the defendant’s white ex-girlfriend, claiming some Black men date white women to “get out of their bad situation” or “enhance their status.” I’m not even Black, and one name came to mind when I read this: Emmett Till.
Additionally, this video from 2019 shows Todd Spitzer repeatedly saying the N* word in the course of his presentation (starts at 25:10), without any regard to how offensive it is for Black people.
How jarring and traumatizing this must be to my Black friends and fellow residents of OC. This small community that’s barely 2% of the 3.2 million people of Orange County, but nonetheless gets the lion’s share of its ever-increasing hate crimes and incidents (27%). If the top so-called law enforcement official is blatantly anti-Black, and if Sheriff Barnes turns a blind eye to his deputies proudly wearing Three Percenters and Oath Keepers patches on their uniform at the height of #GeorgeFloyd protests, can we blame Tia Turner for defending herself and refusing to become another name for #JusticeFor campaign? More importantly, can we allow a racist, anti-Black District Attorney operating within an inherently skewed and racist legal system to destroy her life?
Those of us paying attention to what OCDA is doing in Tia’s case fully understand that Spitzer wants to make an example out of her. By going with such zeal after a Black organizer who was defending herself, OC’s anti-Black District Attorney Todd Spitzer has entered the realm of persecution. We should keep him as far away as possible from any public office. He has already caused so much harm, some irreparable, to our BIPOC communities. The immediate resignation of Todd Spitzer is a precondition for any meaningful reckoning with racism and hate in OC.
Lulu Hammad is a long-time community organizer and human rights activist. She’s the cofounder of Yalla Indivisible and People’s Budget OC and has been living in Orange County with her family for the last 10 years.
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