Santa Maria chief admits to fabricating news, local press angry

December 2, 2016

NewspaperSanta Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin has admitted to fabricating a story about two Guadalupe men being arrested for identity theft, a tale local media subsequently reported. Martin said he made up the story in order to save the lives of the Guadalupe men who were murder targets of local MS-13 gangsters.

Local media that reported the false story, which Martin circulated in a press release, have reacted angrily to the revelation that the events never occurred. Martin, though, is defending his actions, saying they were morally and legally justified and that, in addition to saving lives, they helped police arrest MS-13 members.

This February, Santa Maria police were engaged in an operation targeting MS-13 members who were allegedly engaged in an ongoing murder spree. During the operation, investigators learned the local branch of MS-13 had put hits on rival gang members Jose Santos Melendez, 22, and Jose Marino Melendez, 23.

Martin then ordered his department to issue a press release saying officers had arrested the Guadalupe men on identity theft charges and had turned them over to ICE. Rather than arresting the men and setting them up for deportation, police actually put them in protective custody.

The following month, authorities conducted a multi-state sting in which they arrested more than 15 foreign nationals from Honduras and El Salvador who are accused of carrying out the Santa Maria murder spree.

Recently, the Santa Maria Sun discovered the story about the identity theft arrests had been fabricated. The Sun then contacted local media that had reported the fabricated news. That prompted Martin to come clean about the story.

In response to the revelation, KSBY issued the following statement:

“KSBY News is deeply troubled by the Santa Maria Police Department’s use of a fake press release to mislead the local news media and our community. While we strongly support the police department’s efforts to protect citizens in harm’s way, we are concerned this type of deception can erode the basic trust of our residents and viewers.”

Daniel Blackburn

Daniel Blackburn

The Santa Maria incident is not the first time a local law enforcement agency issued false information in a press release. Yet, local media are reacting much differently than they did on a previous occasion when law enforcement circulated false information, not to save lives, but presumably to cover for a department’s earlier false statements and possible embarrassment to another law enforcement agency.

In 2010, CalCoastNews correspondent Dan Blackburn reported that the Dystiny Myers killers had been caught on a surveillance video beating the 15-year-old victim at a Pismo Beach gas station prior to setting her body on fire in Santa Margarita. Two Pismo Beach police officers were standing nearby, talking and drinking coffee during the now-convicted murderers’ pit stop in South County.

Following Blackburn’s report, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release saying none of what Blackburn reported about the video was correct. Both the Tribune and KSBY reported the sheriff’s falsified story and even chastised Blackburn for writing untrue news.

The video was later played during the Myers murder trial, completely corroborating Blackburn’s detailed report and exposing the department’s lie.

Nonetheless, neither KSBY nor the Tribune issued corrections when the surveillance video surfaced in court even though local radio host David Congalton demanded they write a retraction and make an apology to Blackburn.







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15 Comments

  1. SLO_Johnny says:

    Cops lie, that’s not news. It’s a fact. Defense lawyers should benefit when Santa Maria police testify in court.

    (-4) 6 Total Votes - 1 up - 5 down
  2. c.d.cox says:

    You mean printed news radio &tv don’t distort their reporting to make you think it is the truth.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  3. Gordo says:

    The press is upset because through the “laziness” of their editors and inexperience of their reporters they have become accustomed to being spoon fed news stories and it finally bit them on the ass.

    The chief planted a story to protect two informants from being murdered. Purist of motives but clearly ill conceived solution.

    The only way these types of planted stories work is if you put the informant in witness protection, move them out of state and then if asked by anyone in the media about your informant you reply, “He went abroad to visit family and subsequently died from appendicitus” you can say you’re not sure which country he travelled to(was it Mexico or Kazakhstan? I wish I knew for sure) and generally the reporters feel satisfied that they don’t have any leads to follow up on and that if you told a lie to them it was just a little white one; not a bald-faced lie that you then used them to spread.

    The media is in an uproar over this, but yet they seem slow to take to task the Paso Police Department and the City for downplaying the criminal street gang activity that threatens the residents of the North County. Three successive chiefs of police have denied rampant gang activity and when a violent act would occur their eyes would glaze over and they would go into “sleep mode” like a Windows machine.

    The media needs to do its job or they will continue to report on “random, senseless acts” of violence here in the “Happiest Place on Earth” because that’s what a city manager and the tourism board told a police chief to say.

    (18) 20 Total Votes - 19 up - 1 down
  4. Josey Wales says:

    Ladies & Gentlemen,

    Welcome to Santa Maria, a Sanctuary City.

    Santa Maria City officials and SMPD Police Chief Ralph Martin ought to be ashamed of themselves. Perpetrating a lie to protect these gangsters wreaks of ethical misconduct, and one has to wonder where we are at when people approve of government misinformation?

    If Santa Maria city officials truly want to save Santa Maria and protect taxpayers, they will immediately end the giveaway of taxpayer money to the illegal alien farmworker population. Why should taxpayers be expected to pay the cost of the Big Ag growers labor source?

    If the local governments would work with ICE, we could prevent the whole gang violence thing from happening. If Santa Maria city officials would end their support of Sanctuary City, we would not be dealing with this embarrassment.

    Just saying,

    Mr. Josey Wales

    (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
  5. what the says:

    Sounds like a good defamation case.

    (-15) 17 Total Votes - 1 up - 16 down

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