Escondido militia training center under fire

Arial view of Freedom Fighters Foundation Property in March 2016/Facebook

Escondido residents are up in arms over what they say is a non-permitted 22-acre paramilitary tactical shooting range operated by the so-called Freedom Fighters Foundation (FFF) at the San Pasqual Valley, just north of Escondido.

“Our neighborhoods in Escondido have been pleading with the government for over a decade to rid our community of the Freedom Fighters Foundation’s non-permitted, para-military tactical shooting range,” neighbors said in an open letter addressed to Escondido leaders and San Diego County supervisors.

“Despite our pleas, incriminating documents, and media attention, we have received little or no support from our representatives,” the letter said. “In fact, we have heard that local politicians have stifled any meaningful solution, most likely not wanting to offend the NRA or paramilitary folks in their districts.”

Ron James, a spokesperson for the residents who sent the letter, added: “This is a tactical training camp teaching people to kill people. In the last month, the FFF has been shooting throughout the week, even on Easter and Red Flag days. No community in San Diego County should have to put up with this constant gunfire.”

Actually, the FFF group that bills itself as a 501(c) non-profit group, has come under fire before and been forced to curtail its activities.

Group leaders Alex Djokich, a former Border Patrol agent and his wife purchased the shooting range property in November 2016 and were shut down by county officials in October 2018 over charges including creation of  unpermitted structures, illegal grading and failure to remove hazardous materials.

The group calls itself a ” non-profit civil liberties organization dedicated to the core principles of of constitutionally limited government, conservative family values, free markets and individual liberty.

However, a group statement adds that “the nation and its culture are being destroyed by progressive statist and their ideology. The progressive philosophy has created representatives that abdicate their constitutional responsibilities and pass laws that violate your rights. They have obligated your posterity with insurmountable debt.”

FFF’s former chief executive officer, Chad Kippe, pleaded guilty to felony gun trafficking charges in late 2016. To read more about that, click here.

How now FFF

Now, the FFF is proposing to buy land for agricultural use next to the gun range. It’s an obvious ruse to expand the firing range and build infrastructure to support it, according to James.

“We’ve had enough,” James continued. “We can’t relax in our patios without the daily sound of gunfire in our neighborhood. We fear wildfires from a stray bullet. We’re concerned about polluting our aquifers with uncountable lead bullets embedded in the shooting range over the years.”

Nearby residents said FFF organizers “evidently has found a sympathetic ear with the county planning department, even as they refuse to honor their commitments and flaunt their abuses. They maintain that FFF shooting is benevolent target practice for friends at family. That the county believes that is almost laughable if it wasn’t so tragic for our communities.”

Neighbors charge FFF officials with continuing to offer tactical training for members of their organization who pay for the privilege, adding that this doesn’t sound like a group of friends using the property for family target practice.

“We were recently told by a county official that there weren’t enough complaints to shut it down,” Paul said. “We have complained for years, and the county did nothing to stop it. And it now looks like the county is facilitating a permanent and dangerous institution next to our community.”

Saying that shooting has mushroomed on the gun range, neighbors added that the FFF had thumbed its nose at the county and our communities.

The bottom line for San Pasqual residents opposing the group’s activities: “We want the range shut down or moved to a safer location. We have had it and we will not let it go this time.”

FFF leaders did not respond to initial contacts for comment in April, but later sent a letter signed by San Diego attorney Robert C. Wright saying, in part, “We request that you remove the article or issue a correction to avoid any further damage to the reputation of the Freedom Fighter Foundation and its members from these false statements. We ask that you act immediately to avoid legal repercussions.”

A man who refused to identify himself repeatedly went on a private San Marcos ranch property unrelated to the Escondido Grapevine Thursday, June 4 saying he had “papers” to deliver to the Grapevine. After repeated admonitions from ranch ownership to leave the property, he attached a copy of Wright’s letter to a gate.

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