The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) has declined to answer questions about what, if any, public alerts or warnings were issued after the first of five alleged sex crimes committed by former NFL player Kellen Winslow Jr. was reported.
Winslow pleaded not guilty last week to nine counts of kidnap, rape, indecent exposure and other sex crimes.
He was first arrested June 7 when he allegedly entered a home in a senior living community in Encinitas. At the time, he faced first-degree burglary charges.
Last Thursday, June 14, he was arrested for a second time at his Encinitas home after a warrant was issued and faced additional sexual assault, kidnapping and sodomy charges from incidents dating back three months, according to the complaint.
Court documents showed Winslow allegedly entered an 86-year-old woman's home on June 7 with the intent to sexually assault her.
According to the complaint, the earliest evidence against Winslow stems from a March 17 incident when he allegedly kidnapped and raped a 54-year-old transient. The other alleged crimes occurred May 13, May 24 and June 1.
There is no indication, however, that SDSO investigators warned the public about that series of sex crimes, all but one of which was violent in nature.
While it’s unknown if the department had any identifying information about the perpetrator, law enforcement routinely sends out warnings and alerts that include a description of the suspect or other information that could help residents protect themselves and generate leads that help the investigation.
An SDSO spokesperson has since last Friday declined to provide any information about what the department knew about those earlier attacks, whether it issued any sort of public alert, and if not, why it chose not to inform the public.
“The default is, you tell the public,” said Roger Clark, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant who now works as an expert witness in lawsuits filed against law enforcement agencies.
Speaking generally, Clark said law enforcement has an obligation to warn the public about unsolved crimes by violent suspects.
But Clark doubts that the SDSO would purposely withhold information that could have protected the public and led to Winslow’s earlier arrest.
“Can they make mistakes?” Clark asked. “Sure. But I don’t think [they did so] in this case. I think they’re being very careful and professional in what they’re doing.”
Clark said it's possible that Winslow’s first two alleged victims -- both transients --never reported the attacks, or had mental or emotional problems that compromised the credibility of what they told detectives, or whether they were able to coherently convey that information.
Clark said crime alerts are only effective if they contain information of value to the public, including a suspect description, a photo, description of their vehicle, or surveillance video.
If investigators don’t have those details, then alerting the public about a reported and unsolved violent crime could be counter-productive.
“Without [some detail], you're creating an atmosphere of [public] hostility and anxiety, and it's not going to result in anything [productive]."
Monday afternoon, SDSO spokesperson Lt. Karen Stubkjaer emailed NBC 7 the following response to numerous requests for information on this issue:
“This case is being handled by the District Attorney's Office and our Major Crimes Division,” Stubkjaer wrote. “Major Crimes handles their own media. They are working on a general response to your question to the extent they can without jeopardizing the investigation or the case.”