Man Arrested After Allegedly Threatening City Employee; Restraining Order Filed

Robert Brians is accused of confronting a Public Works employee who was examining possible neighborhood code violations. Brians' wife says her husband's arrest is hindering his ability to provide for his family.

Last Thursday afternoon, Robert Brians peeked over his backyard fence to see Public Works employee Tommy Simmons in the alley taking pictures of his neighbor's backyard. 

Brians then took a picture with his cell phone. After an encounter between the two men, a restraining order was filed against Brians which was never served. But Wednesday morning while on his way to work, he was arrested on suspicion of threatening a public employee—a felony—and held on $25,000 bail.

"When he left for work this morning there were two unmarked cars and a police car that were waiting for him," said his wife, Kristen Brians.

Minutes later, her husband called her, she said.

"He called me and was like 'I have six cop cars [around me], they have their guns out; there are motorcycle cops barricading Palm Avenue for a no-flee kind of situation.' It's something you'd expect to see in a movie," she said.

"They were all parked in front of the house so I don't understand why they wouldn't arrest him there," she said.

According to the restraining order filed by the city of Imperial Beach with the Sheriff's Department, Simmons claims that while examining possible code violations on Delaware Street last Thursday, Brians shouted curse words at him, threatened to "wring his neck like a chicken" and said "I'm going to break your legs."

The harassment allegedly continued as he drove to the front of the property, though Simmons never said a word, the document says.

For his part, Robert Brians said he didn't threaten Simmons, and that he doesn't like the idea of the city poking around in his or his neighbors' backyards.

"I've got a teenage daughter and you've got 15 girls down there playing in bikinis. You don't want some bastard looking over the fence," he said Monday.

Brians is scheduled to appear in court Friday for arraignment, the Sheriff's Department said. 

His wife, Kristen, said she needs her husband to work, and Wednesday evening was making arrangements with him from jail for friends to cover his shifts in tile and grout work.

Lately, he has worked a lot of odd jobs and helps his wife run a day care center out of their home. His family needs him to work, she said.

"We have a mortgage payment due and with him not working, I can't take any more kids because I'm by myself. And if he's not working then I don't have an income. Oh my God, if they keep him for more than three days, what am I going to do?" 

The restraining order, which was granted July 28, orders Brians to stay 100 yards from Simmons' job and workplace, which includes the Civic Center and City Hall.

That means he may not be able to attend City Council meetings, or appear in person to discuss with city staff his idea of starting a business to sell rare pets and reptiles.

Documents attached to the restraining order claim that threats began in June 2008 when the Brians were cited for code violations. 

In conversations with the Sheriff's Department following Robert Brians' arrest, officials said a previous restraining order showed a pattern in his behavior and a willingness to threaten people. 

A separate restraining order filed by neighbor John Harrington claims Brians threatened him multiple times in October 2009 for throwing bird feed in the street and attracting pigeons.

However, declarations written by 16 neighbors and parents whose children attend the day care held in the Brians' home said they have never seen Robert threaten anyone and describe him as a "family man," "good neighbor" and "caring." 

Multiple declarations signed under penalty of perjury refute some of the dates and times of threats claimed by the neighbor. 

Still, Community Development Department Director Greg Wade said threats against city employees are taken seriously and that restraining orders are uncommon, saying he has only seen two filed since he started working for the city 10 years ago.

"That should tell you the serious nature of it," he said.

Martin Cronk, 72, the neighbor whose home Simmons inspected, has lived in IB since 1966 and described himself as "an old farm boy from Michigan that don't like to be told when to mow his grass."

His home had been cited for several violations over time. He said he didn't hear everything said between Simmons and Brians on July 28 but from what he did catch, he didn't hear any threatening words or vulgarities.

"I know Robert's had problems with the city before and they've locked horns over several different things," he said.

Speaking of city employees taking photos of his property without his knowledge, he said, "I don't like it."

"I've got a house full of young girls here, from 1 year up to 21 living with me and sometimes they don't have the windows or curtains pulled down all the time and i wouldn't approve of having that sort of thing," he said.

"I think that there could be a better idea or way of doing things, but bureaucrats aren't going to make it easy on themselves," Cronk said.

Mike G August 04, 2011 at 11:13 PM
I saw this goat f_ _ k of an arrest go down on Palm Ave on Wed. morning. Looked to be approx. in front of the HoKo. Yep WAY more police presence than required for something of this nature. Damn right something is wrong with this whole scenario. An arrest made a full WEEK after the alleged incident? For what reason was the douche bag cop taking pics? If the moron had to stand in the back of a truck see into the backyard then obviously this wasn't something readily visible from the street so what's the problem? It appalls me that a blind eye is turned toward blatant violations but some A-hole goes out of his way to spy on private property. If you want a way to fill city coffers I have an easy one. Enforce the damn noise ordinances! Cite every A-hole biker with an exhaust that is 3 Db above Oh My God and we get to hear his POS Harley a half mile away while it sets off car alarms up and down the street at 5 A.M. And every punk ass who thinks I want to hear the bass of the crap they call music for 3 and half blocks. Lets face it, this occurs everyday in front of God and everyone and not a damn thing is done about it. But hey lets use resources looking into otherwise concealed backyards. PEACE!
Mike G August 04, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Tracy, your post made it sound as if it was a couch in someone's yard, not the sidewalk, and a cracked window is a far cry from a boarded up property. If the term 'busy-body' is all it takes to upset you, public chat boards may not be your forte until your skin becomes somewhat thicker. Certainly not my property and I highly doubt any opinion you have could possibly upset me. Don't flatter yourself. You're not as influential as you believe yourself to be. PEACE!
Shorebird August 04, 2011 at 11:40 PM
I don't consider myself influential, I am a concerned citizen. But who's doing the ranting here? PEACE DUDE!
Mike G August 04, 2011 at 11:52 PM
Concerned citizen, busy-body. Six of one, a half dozen of the other. BTW with what exactly are you so concerned? Someone else's property? Maybe they can make you Block Captain. Then you can have the faux authority you so desperately desire. And yes the ranter would be me. I'll own it. PEACE!
Shorebird August 05, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Rant on...I am simply your mirror PEACE DUDE!
SmokeNgun August 05, 2011 at 01:27 AM
The City does not have the right to look into our back yards. The City Council is acting like a HOA with gun toting thugs as muscle. I have been to the City Council meetings and they will not listen to anything the Citizens have to say. The mayor will stare at the timer and announce your time is up. The only way to solve this issue is to VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE! Its the only way.
No8thAve August 05, 2011 at 05:41 PM
I used to be an employee of the Brians's, having been at their house a lot I can tell you that THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME, this SAME city officer has done this. I can also tell you that Robert Brians is not a threat to anyone, for this incident to happen is unreal. The city has gone too far, and they are pushing and apparently arresting the innocent people that want their voice to be heard. Does anyone else think this whole situation is shady? If Mr. Brians allegedly "threatened" the city officer, why was he not arrested the same day as the altercation? If you ask me.. it's the CITY that is threatening the people, get a freaking grip on your Council, and stop making Imperial Beach look like a joke.
Mike G August 05, 2011 at 06:27 PM
After some reflection I need some clarification on this episode. The way I understand it, I.B. contracts the SDCSD as our law enforcement agency. Was the 'city official' that was taking pictures a Sheriff's Deputy or does he indeed work for the city of I.B. and therefore just another overpaid, under-employed POS apparatchik bureaucrat? The truck looks very much like an I.B. city vehicle to me. Do we in fact have two entities attempting to play cop in our town? If the Peeping Tom is not actually law enforcement I certainly understand the citizen being VERY upset of some pee-on photographing private property and going out of their way to do it no less. Although this would have gone over like a fart in church, Mr. Brians should have made a citizens arrest if he perceived an invasion of privacy from ANYONE, even law enforcement. He obviously had a cell phone, hence the picture. Dial 911 and report a Peeping Tom. Just food for thought. PEACE!
Nate August 05, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Peeping Tommy is a permanent employee of the City, part of the Planning Dept. I still say we should attend en masse at the next Council meeting on the 17th, and say enough is enough.
Ed Sorrels August 05, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Still trying to find out if the teenage vollyball team girls were there behind the fence as this guy was taking pic's. This would give the whole story a very different take. As to a enmase appearance at the council meetying on the 17 I look forward to being there, But be advised after all the chatter on this there will be a VERY heavy police presence there, Just think back to the meeting on Marijuana shops, there were about 1 cop for every 4 people attending, I noticed even several resereve officers, I asked one why the heavy police presence and was told it was to control potential disruptive behavior, I just don't understand why standing jup and speaking your mind is considered to be disruptive behavbior, Am I missing something ? and who decides that a show of force is a form of control, The Sheriff's or the council ? That aside this need's to be lookked into, Why was the arrest later, Who authorized the sheriff's action, There jujst to many questions for this to sit right with the people of this city !
SmokeNgun August 06, 2011 at 04:33 AM
If Brian Family has other witness to collaborate the story that Mr. Simmons on city time, in city owned truck, with a city supplied camera has been caught taking pictures of minors in a back yard, then the City of Imperial Beach has a real problem. The Brian Family needs a lawyer and the IB City Council is about to waste a ton of our tax dollars.
Ed Sorrels August 06, 2011 at 06:15 AM
What need's to happen now is that I am sure that the city is aware of what is happening here on the web, They need to get ahold of the patch pedople and put the suspect photos here on patch for everyone to see and settle if there was inappropriate actions by a city employee, Baring that they should surely make them available at the council meeting on the 17th.
ibcalif August 06, 2011 at 06:32 AM
IB city government is a can of worms that will be the new City of Bell, California scandal: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-20/california-official-s-800-000-salary-in-city-of-38-000-triggers-protests.html If DA Doumanis wants a juicy campaign target or Turko of KUSI needs a good story, take a look at the political cesspool that is Imperial Beach.
Devyn Stone-Correa August 06, 2011 at 06:52 AM
Being only 18, I don't quite understand the politics behind this, but i do know Robert, and i do know his family. If a city employee wants to photograph someone's backyard, they should come with official uniforms and documents with permission from the city saying they are authorized for this, not stand in the bed of a truck in a back alley and take pictures over a fence trying to be discreet. Regardless of wether or not the volleyball team was at his house while this guy was taking pictures, it is still an invasion of privacy, the government should not concern itself with the private affairs of its citizens, that is not their job.
lynn August 06, 2011 at 07:22 AM
Our neighborhood has an unwritten neighborhood watch program. We all watch out for one another. Mr. Brian's was protecting his neighbor and was looking out for the entire neighborhood. It wouldn't be the first time that persons have been caught peeping over private fences in our neighborhood. Perverts we expect to be peeping. City employees standing in the back of their truck to peer over is unacceptable. Did that employee even have a paper trail for why he was there that day, or does he just go out on his own and take photos of whom ever and what ever? Does he turn these photos in to his boss or does his photo chip go home to his personal use? Is he abusing his position? IB has enough code violations in plain sight to keep them busy, climbing into truck beds and hassling home owners, making them feel threatened is ridiculous. To arrest a citizen for looking out for his neighborhood just shows all of us the length of strong armed tactics this city is willing to use to steam roll their residents into submission. Stand up against IB, voice your opinion... then be sure to duck because they will come after you...it's not right.
Pop Quiz August 07, 2011 at 01:02 AM
the hypocrisy of our city is ridiculous,,,the shopping center. at 9th and Palm is a huge eyesore with boarded up windows and graffiti, a homeless tweeker dirt bag paradise. Owned by WHO ???The CITY OF IB . There is a different standard when it is their "eyesore". i hope anyone looking over any backyard fence is bit in the face by a very large dog with bad breath and a big appetite,,, A mans home is his castle..
frogy August 07, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Does anyone know how the arraignment went on Friday for Mr Brians?
Ed Sorrels August 07, 2011 at 10:54 PM
I did some checking and Came up with thkjs about searches Searches and Inspections in Noncriminal Cases .--Certain early cases held that the Fourth Amendment was applicable only when a search was undertaken for criminal investigatory purposes, 66 and the Supreme Court until recently employed a reasonableness test for such searches without requiring either a warrant or probable cause in the absence of a warrant. 67 But in 1967, the Court held in two cases that administrative inspections to detect building code violations must be undertaken pursuant to warrant if the occupant objects. 68 ''We may agree that a routine inspection of the physical condition of private property is a less hostile intrusion than the typical policeman's search for the fruits and instrumentalities of crime. . . . But we cannot agree that the Fourth Amendment interests at stake in these inspection cases are merely 'peripheral.' It is surely anomalous to say that the individual and his private property are fully protected by the Fourth Amendment only when the individual is suspected of criminal behavior.'' 69 Certain administrative inspections utilized to enforce regulatory schemes with regard to such items as alcohol and firearms are, however, exempt from the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement and may be authorized simply by statute. 70 I would think in light of this that what the city employee was doing was an illegal search, BUT I AIN'T A LAWYER !
THERESA BRIANS August 08, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Ed Sorrels August 08, 2011 at 06:13 AM
Theresa, How did the arrignment go last friday, We are all interested in what is going to happen to bob as this is most clearly a screwup by the city, Please post !
Ed Sorrels August 08, 2011 at 06:14 AM
And can you find out if the girls were in the back yard of the house where the pictures were being taken !
Ed Sorrels August 08, 2011 at 06:22 AM
In thinking about this were there any witnesses to what was said, If not it becomes a "he said" "she said" situation and how did they get authorization from the city attorney to issue a arrest warrant, Or was this a citizens arrest by the city employee that was involved. We are missing a bunch of information that we should have to come to a reasoned opinion about what is going on with the city and the Sheriff's and how this arrest came about so much later ? Will Anyone that has more information please post and let all of us know !
Khari Johnson (Editor) August 10, 2011 at 01:40 AM
To my knowledge Robert Brians' daughter and her friends were not in the backyard playing volleyball in bikinis at the time of the incident but I will double check and see how his arraignment went Friday. Stay tuned. Martin Cronk, Robert Brians' neighbor, has tried to fulfill code enforcement demands from the city for a long time, but he said he was not notified by Tom Simmons on July 28 that he was taking pictures of his backyard. I've heard a barrage of complaints from city residents and business owners about code enforcement. Definitely a thankless job, but a lot of people aren't happy about the way they have been treated. Do you have your own story or something else you feel we should be writing about? Email khari.johnson@patch.com
THERESA BRIANS August 16, 2011 at 05:53 AM
T BRIANS Robert has been advised not to make any comments on this case. His bail was set at $25,000. He went to court today but it was continued approx. 30 days. The judge did allow him to attend the City Council meeting on the 17th. Please come and support your neighbor Robert. He has shown he will stand up for his neighbors! Thank you for your concern. No, the girls were not playing volleyball at the time.
ibcalif August 16, 2011 at 09:25 AM
Please attend to show your support for Brian Roberts and your opposition to pervasive, heavy-handed and long-standing city employee misconduct. City Council Meeting Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 6:00 PM City Hall Main Line: 423-8300 City Manager: 423-8303 Code Compliance: 628-1359 Mayor & City Council: 628-2346 http://maps.google.com/maps?q=825+Imperial+Beach+Blvd.+Imperial+Beach,+CA+91932&ll=32.576563,-117.115867&spn=0.015171,0.033023&gl=us&z=16&vpsrc=6
frogy August 16, 2011 at 03:04 PM
I'll be there. Please remember this incident when it's time to vote in a new mayor and council. Peeping Tom and David Garcia also need to be replaced.
Robert August 17, 2011 at 04:18 AM
Hello everyone, this is Robert. I can't talk about the case against the city, but I would like to say that we all need to be at city council meeting tomorrow night. The meeting starts at 6;00pm. Please show up and show your support for our civil rights. Are we going to keep allowing our city employees to invade our privacy and illegally enforce municipal codes. How would they like us parking trucks in their alleys and taking pictures of their kids or wives? How many pictures make it to the city and how many are still at home on personal computers? I think they have enough work to do without climbing over our fences. We are only strong in numbers, other wise they will take us out one at a time. They have bullied many of my neighbors and friends. I have been here all my life and I'm not leaving! See you all tomorrow night, I hope!
SmokeNgun August 17, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Mr. Brians, my wife & I will be at the city council meeting in full support. It is outrages how our city council members allow the city bureaucrats treat the Citizens of IB. The current city council never listens or acts on behalf of the Citizens. The only way to correct their behavior is to VOTE THEM ALL OUT!
SPEEDYLOKO August 23, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Mike G August 23, 2011 at 08:46 PM
WTF? Let me guess. Mar Vista Grad right? PEACE!


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