On Jan. 5, nine Sheriff’s patrol cars swarmed into the transportation yard of Stockton Unified School District and slapped a search warrant on custodial chief Randy San Nicolas.
Observers wondered if the operation was the culmination of long-running corruption investigations into Stockton Unified by the FBI and other agencies. It was something else — as if troubled Stockton Unified needed something else.
The warrant — to search San Nicolas’ office, car and home — stemmed from a Dec. 16 incident. Around 7:30 that night deputies saw a 2005 Lexus drive through Lincoln Center with its lights off.
“The deputy flashed his car to turn its light on just for safety, and that’s when the car took off at a high rate of speed,” said Sheriff’s Office (SO) spokesman Nick Goucher.
Deputies chased the Lexus as it careened around the neighborhood west of Lincoln Center for several minutes at speeds up to 65 mph, the SO reported.
During the chase, the driver, fleeing helter-skelter, allegedly dented a car.
Then the Lexus jounced back into Lincoln Center South, which was teeming with Christmas shoppers. Fearing someone would get run over, deputies ended the chase.
They had the license plate.
Around this point in the timeline, San Nicolas reported that his Lexus’s license plate had been stolen.
San Nicolas, 59, a Stockton Unified employee since 1988, is custodial operations manager. A big job given the huge district’s 54 schools and other buildings, with pay of $100,684 a year.
Before San Nicolas was a manager, he served as president of the union representing a quarter of the district’s workforce, California School Employees Association Delta Valley Chapter 821.
If you’re thinking that makes San Nicolas a model citizen, think again. San Nicolas reportedly refused to cooperate with deputies, who searched his office and car. They also showed his co-workers a photo from a Lincoln Center surveillance camera and asked if they knew the person. It was San Nicolas’ grandson, Joseph Terrones, 19, the SO said.
Deputies escorted San Nicholas to his home and searched it. According to court documents and SO sources, they found an illegal assault weapon and two grams of white powder. They seized both.
Further digging convinced detectives that San Nicolas and his partner, Rosann Castillo, 58, were lying to cover for their grandson. The stolen plate report was a red herring.
The couple also “removed distinct identifying marks from the vehicle in an attempt to claim someone else, in the same make, model, and color vehicle, was involved in the pursuit,” the SO posted.
By now Stockton Unified was abuzz with gossip and speculation. Watchdog bloggers began to lampoon Randy San Nicolas unmercifully on Instagram.
On Jan. 26 the three suspects were arrested and booked.
Randy San Nicolas faces a felony charge of possession of an assault weapon; a felony accessory charge; a misdemeanor charge of false report of a crime; and a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance.
The Sheriff’s Office posted that the controlled substance was cocaine because a field test identified it as such; field tests are not 100% reliable, however, and subsequent testing by the Department of Justice identified the substance as codeine.
Substance abusers mix codeine with Sprite, to make a euphoric called “purple drank,” which the Urban Dictionary says is “not to be sipped by suckas!!!!!” Others go a step further and add Jolly Rancher candy for a drink called a “sizzurp.”
What a god-awful idea.
Terrones is charged with evading a peace officer with wanton disregard, a felony, as well as hit and run with property damage, a misdemeanor.
Castillo was charged with misdemeanor counts of accessory and false report.
The defendants’ attorneys did not return late calls for comment.
Stockton Unified issued a statement: “The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department made us aware of the arrest of Mr. San Nicolas and explained the charges have nothing to do with SUSD. Mr. San Nicolas is on leave during the investigation.”
Stockton Unified is an inner-city school district, and the poverty of its students is often cited as the reason district scores are perennially poor. The San Nicolas case — on top of investigations by the FBI, state auditors, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the county Grand Jury, and others — on top of the arrest of the previous superintendent for drunken driving — and more — show that the district workforce is also poor in human capital. For every dedicated educator it seems there are two incompetents, grifters or scofflaws undermining the students, the district, and the city of Stockton. The tragedy is some people like it that way.
Fitzgerald’s column runs on Wednesdays. Phone (209) 687-9585. On Twitter and Instagram as Stocktonopolis. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.