Civil rights leaders question dismissal of hate motive in poolside shooting

Witnesses talk to police after a mass shooting at University City apartment pool on April 30, 2017.

SPRING VALLEY – Members of a civil rights organization and local religious leaders will meet in Spring Valley Tuesday to pray for the families of the victims of a mass shooting at a University City apartment complex and to call attention to an allegation that authorities rushed to judgment in determining the rampage was not racially motivated.

The National Action Network San Diego Chapter, its president, the Rev. Shane Harris, and other members of the clergy scheduled a news conference to publicly question “the investigation only going 24 hours before Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman coming down to confirmation that hate was not involved in the crime.” The press conference was later postponed.

The press conference was later postponed and the date was not given.

“The community still questions the crime and believes there is more to the story,” according to a National Action Network San Diego Chapter statement.

Though five of the victims shot at a birthday pool party at the complex on Judicial Drive just after 6 p.m. Sunday were black, including the woman who was killed, and one was Hispanic, authorities do not believe the rampage by the white gunman, Peter Raymond Selis, 49, was an ethnicity-based hate crime, Zimmerman said Monday. One of the surviving victims also is white.

Authorities have withheld the victims’ names, but the slain woman was identified to news crews by friends as Monique Clark of San Diego.

“There is zero information to indicate that race played a factor in this terrible and horrific crime,” Zimmerman told news crews. “The victims were targeted for no other reason but their mere presence in the vicinity of the (shooting).”

Selis was apparently upset over a breakup days before and was believed to have targeted his victims randomly, authorities said. He fired a large- caliber handgun into a crowd while sitting in a lounge chair holding a beer and speaking to the woman on his cellphone.

“It is apparent that Selis wanted his ex-girlfriend to listen in as he carried out his rampage,” the chief told reporters.

When officers arrived at the La Jolla Crossroads apartment complex, Selis fired in the direction of one of them, prompting three of the personnel to return fire, according to the SDPD. He died at the scene.

Alliance San Diego, a social-justice advocacy organization, has also suggested that police officials might have been premature in their determination of a motive for the shooting rampage.

“We are concerned that even before an investigation has concluded, and despite evidence that the killer appeared to target black and Latino residents and let others leave, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has come to her own conclusions,” the group asserted in a statement Monday.

People of color “need to know that law enforcement agencies are here to serve and protect all people,” Alliance San Diego stated, adding that its members “call on Chief Zimmerman to conduct a thorough and complete investigation into the incident, including the possibility that the killer acted with racial animus.”