For two years, Rogelio Chimal says a security guard at Plaza Pacoima, has extorted money from him to let him sell candy at the shopping center at the corner of Bradley Avenue and Paxton Street. The shopping center has a hardware, electronics and a big box store.
In a video posted by Chimal on the Pacoima! Represent! Facebook Page (https://bit.ly/3fQT97E), he showed a recording as he hands a cup of money to the security guard who is sitting in a golf cart. The security guard employed by Unified Protective Services grabs the money and then hands the empty cup back to Chimal.
Chimal identified the security guard as Victor Martinez, a native of Houston, Texas.
“Te fue bien ahora guey” (You had some luck today, dude), the security guard is heard on the video saying, before thanking Chimal and telling him he will see him the next day.
Chimal, a native of Mexico City, was run over by a vehicle two years ago and lost the bottom of his right leg. Since then he’s been selling candy and begging in the plaza to feed his family.
He gets around in a wheelchair and ties the bags of candy he sells onto a makeshift necklace.
When he initially showed up at the Plaza, he says the security guard would tell him to leave. Sometimes Chimal would hide from him until the security guard began asking him for money to let him stay.
“He told me ‘I need you to give me money so I can let you stay here,’” recalls Chimal, 47.
He never reported the situation out of fear.
“Sometimes he would even threaten me with reporting me to immigration,” said Chimal, who adds Martinez also told him on several occasions that he was drunk while at work.
On Saturdays and Sundays, for nearly two years, Chimal said he would give between $20 to $35 to the security guard, whom he described as “aggressive”. In all, Chimal estimates he gave the security guard somewhere around $1,800.
“If I left without giving him money, aside from the insults, he would chase me away the next day,” Chimal said.
“I was afraid he would harm me,” said Chimal as to why he didn’t report the extortion before.
He said he doesn’t want the money back or any problem, but notes the security guard was “abusing his uniform.”
“He is soiling the company for which he works,” Chimal added.
A GoFundMe account (https://bit.ly/30yp1I3) was set up to help Chimal and on Tuesday July 21, people who saw the video showed up to show him support and protest what had happened to him.
According to those who organized the demonstration, the security guard was removed from the plaza a day after the video was posted on social media.
Chimal said he was tired of being abused when asked why after two years of giving money to the security guard he finally spoke up. “I only want him to leave me alone and just hope he doesn’t do the same to others,” he said.
Dozens of people showed up to buy candy from him during the protest.
Chimal, visibly overwhelmed with the response said he felt “happy” and “not alone”.
“I feel wonderful. I don’t feel like I’m not worth anything, like I had to hide,” he says. “I feel more confident that even with my disability, there’s people who appreciate me.”
People from all walks of life have been reaching out to him and sending him positive messages, they’ve even come from other street vendors who also complain about security guards doing the same thing to them.
Now he hopes there’s justice.
“I just hope he doesn’t harm anyone else, that he doesn’t take money away from anybody. If he ever gets his job back, he should appreciate it and respect people.”
The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol contacted Unified Protective Services but has not received a response.