Santa Maria man arrested after racist threat discovered at Nipomo Pilates studio | Local News
A Santa Maria man was arrested Friday morning after he allegedly left a racist and threatening note on the window of a Nipomo pilates studio, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a news release.
Ricardo Salazar, 47, allegedly wrote a “racist hate speech” that “contained threats of violence”, according to the press release.
The note was taped to the window of Powerhouse Barre and Pilates near the 500 block of West Tefft Street in Nipomo. The threat was directed at the owner and founder of the pilates studio, Marissa Wilson, who is black.
“I don’t like black people in this town. So you’re back to your African GORILLA,” the black marker reads. “I’m going to kill you at the beach.”
Salazar was arrested on suspicion of communicating a threat to someone that could result in serious bodily harm or death with an enhanced hate crime sentence. He was sentenced to San Luis Obispo County Jail on $100,000 bond.
“I was just heartbroken. I felt sad. I felt disappointment,” Wilson told the Tribune when recounting what it was like to read the note. comfortable, because how can someone be so angry? We didn’t do anything to that person. We’re just here.
A racist note has been pasted on the window of Powerhouse Barre and Pilates in Nipomo, which is owned by Marissa Wilson. (Chloe Jones/San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)
Just before Wilson arrived at her studio on Friday morning, she received a call from one of her employees informing her that a man who had been sitting outside the studio almost every Friday at 6 a.m. since months was back, and this time he left a note.
Wilson didn’t know the exact message written on the window until hours after she was told. All she knew was that it was racist and threatening.
According to the sheriff’s office, the citizen followed Salazar and alerted sheriff’s deputies to his location. That citizen was Wilson, the threatened woman, Wilson told the Tribune.
When she pulled into her studio parking lot, she saw the man’s car – a black Ford Expedition – and decided to follow it as she pulled out of the parking lot. Her clients and employees had already called 9-1-1, and she wanted to make sure the man who repeatedly loitered outside her studio was caught. She also called the dispatch as she followed Salazar.
Salazar pulled into the parking lot where House of Prayer is located off Frontage Road and Wilson followed him. She waited about 30 minutes, then said she informed House of Prayer that a man stalking her was in their parking lot and that the police were on their way. Sheriff’s deputies arrested Salazar shortly after Wilson left the scene.
A man was seen parked outside a studio for months
Ricardo Salazar, 47, of Santa Maria, was arrested on May 27, 2022, on suspicion of communicating a threat to someone that could result in serious bodily harm or death with an enhanced hate crime sentence. Photo courtesy of (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Photo)
Salazar’s car was seen parked outside the studio almost every Friday during 6 a.m. class, Wilson told the Tribune. The studio has large bay windows and a glass door to the nearest parking spaces. Two locations in particular could provide someone who stayed in their car with an unobstructed view of the classroom.
A customer noticed Salazar inside his car parked at one of these locations on April 1, and Wilson, customers and employees, noticed the car appearing regularly during Friday’s 6 a.m. class.
Shannon Mako, the studio’s social media manager who also regularly attends 6 a.m. classes, told the Tribune when she looked at photos she took for the studio’s social accounts that the car appeared from the beginning of March.
“It was dark so we didn’t notice him at the time, didn’t see him in the car or didn’t pay much attention because it was too dark and the studio was lit,” Mako told the Tribune. “It was a really strange feeling to look back and see.”
Both Wilson and Mako told the Tribune that when told Salazar would regularly park there, employees and customers made efforts to get to the parking spots first. And the efforts appeared to be working – for at least two weeks Salazar’s car was not seen parked outside the studio, although it’s unclear whether he could have been parked in a more distant location .
This changed on May 20, when his car returned to one of the locations, but this time he was not in the front seat. Wilson said when she first arrived at the studio she thought he wasn’t in his car, but as class started she noticed he was in the car, but on the back seat. Customers also noticed the car had returned and they took photos of the license plate to hand over to authorities, Wilson and Mako said.
After the May 20 class ended, Wilson decided to confront Salazar and told him to leave and not come back. She also called 9-1-1, which then called the sheriff’s office.
Studio owner says sheriff’s deputy was reluctant to respond
When she called the sheriff’s office to report Salazar’s repeated parking outside the studio, the answering sheriff’s officer didn’t seem to want to answer, Wilson told the Tribune.
“I said, ‘There’s this guy sitting here. He’s been here more times than we know, and I feel like it’s really weird. Can you come over and pass by? car?” And he was like, ‘Well, I’m all the way to Oceano. Do you really need me to come? And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s scary,'” Wilson said.
Wilson said the deputy then pushed back and asked if the business had blinds, if his door was locked and if he was doing anything. She told him that Salazar was watching her and the class and it was scary.
“He’s like, ‘Well, if I come, what do you want me to do? Knock on his window and tell him to move? And I said, ‘Yeah, we’re training in our clothes. He can see us,” Wilson told the Tribune. “The deputy said, ‘It’s not my fault you’re wearing those clothes and he can see you wearing those clothes,'” he said. – she continued. “I was taken aback by that.”
Grace Norris, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, told the Tribune that the office first heard of the deputy’s alleged actions when the Tribune asked about them. She said the office was following up on the allegations and it was “concerning whether that was how it happened.”
The Deputy eventually arrived on the scene, but by then Salazar had already left and was nowhere to be found. The office had his description and license plate number, Norris confirmed to the Tribune in an email.
This week, Salazar returned to the studio and reportedly recorded the racist death threat on the window.
“It makes me feel so in danger. Like I’m calling something that’s an emergency and no one is answering it,” Wilson said. “It’s a little disappointing that it had to escalate so much for someone to take action.”
Wilson confirmed in a text message to The Tribune that the sheriff’s office has since contacted her to investigate the incident.
The Nipomo Pilates community worked together to protect the business owner
It would have been easy for his clients and employees to no longer show up during Fridays at 6 a.m., Wilson said. But not only did they keep showing up, but they worked together to protect her.
They put the words into action when they started leaving early for a course already early in the morning to park in the squares first, she said. And they were also on the phone with her when she reported Salazar on May 20, and they helped report Salazar on Friday morning when he left the death threat.
Wilson said the community she found in Nipomo helped her find a support system, especially after moving to a place where she didn’t have as many family and friends.
She noted that when she was on the phone with the dispatcher Friday morning after Salazar, the dispatcher noted that someone else had also called about the same incident. Her customers also checked on her throughout the day after seeing the message posted on her window.
“We all stayed there waiting for her (Marissa) to come back. We all stayed there to take pictures and evidence, and we all showed up the week after and the week after,” Mako told the Grandstand.
“And we’ll show up next week too, because it’s important for us to support her and no one will leave her alone.”
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