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Feds say Santa Cruz cops offered no help during raid of pirate radio station

Feds say Santa Cruz cops offered no help during raid of pirate radio station

October 1, 2004
Sentinel staff writer

Free Radio Santa Cruz pirate station is back to streaming via the Internet as federal officers complained that Santa Cruz police failed to help them seize the station’s equipment during Wednesday’s raid.

About a dozen armed federal marshals and Federal Communications Commission agents served three civil orders and seized the station’s equipment at its Laurel Street headquarters in a tense, morning rush-hour operation marked by a burgeoning and agitated crowd.

The station has operated for nearly 10 years without a license. Its Web site states it defies federal regulators, who have "proved themselves to be controlled by monied interests."

Programmer Vincent "Vinnie" Lombardo said Thursday that volunteer radio operators would continue to broadcast online at and would plan a return to the airwaves at a meeting Thursday night.

And in San Jose on Thursday, federal agents said they had requested help from Santa Cruz police before the court-ordered seizure, but didn’t get it.

"We always like to have uniformed officers present, as a backup," said Zareen Iqbal, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service. She declined comment when asked how agents felt about the lack of assistance.

Santa Cruz Police Chief Howard Skerry said he was unaware of a request, though he knew the agents were in town after a lieutenant heard about it at a meeting on a different subject. He said police evaluate such requests on a case-by-case basis, and that it seemed they had enough agents, who were clearly identified as law enforcement officers.

"We have limitations on what we can afford, and they appeared to have adequate support and were not planning to make any arrests, but strictly take some property," he said.

"If there is a particular safety issue, we will participate, and if there were some physical confrontation we would certainly assist them," he said. "We kept an eye on it."

An officer did respond when nine tires on five of the agents’ cars were slashed, he said. Officers will investigate, Skerry said.

He said Santa Cruz police in the early 1980s chose not to participate with arrests the Immigration and Naturalization Service was making during immigration sweeps, but said Wednesday’s lack of presence by police was simply a resource-allocation decision.

Iqbal said federal agents typically get help from local police when they request it. She did not know when the request was made, or to whom.

"All I know is they didn’t help," she said.

Contact Cathy Redfern at

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