Neighborhood Watch sign across Nebo Drive from Scott McMillan's law office building.
Neighborhood Watch sign across Nebo Drive from Scott McMillan’s law office building in the downtown La Mesa Village. Photo by Ken Stone

On his website, Scott McMillan cites Virgil’s “Aeneid,” which tells the Trojan horse story. The La Mesa lawyer translates Queen Dido’s Latin slogan Non ignara mali, miseris succerrere disco as “Not myself being unacquainted with difficulty, I learn to succor the distressed.”

A simpler version is: “I learn to help those in need.”

After widespread looting and arson in downtown La Mesa in late May, McMillan sought to help fellow business owners by creating La Mesa Civil Defense. He promoted it via Facebook and on the Mount Nebo NextDoor page.

“If you join, you will be expected to do a stint,” McMillan wrote one man June 8 on NextDoor before a street-corner meeting of those he’d term the Yellow Vests. “If you join, you will be expected to keep the communications methods secret. … If you are sincere and non-disruptive, and want to continue, you will be given admittance.”

Scott McMillan stressed “presence and de-esclataion” were the tactics of La Mesa Civil Defense. Photo by Times of San Diego

But several La Mesa Boulevard business owners, who spoke to Times of San Diego on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said they felt threatened by McMillan’s aggressive efforts to protect businesses following the Black Lives Matter protest at the La Mesa police station.

Afraid of potential use of guns, one neighbor said she called La Mesa police, urging them to check on him. And police confirm they received the call.

On Wednesday, McMillan responded to neighbor allegations by saying: “These stories you are hearing are absurd, false, libelous.”

As he’s done consistently since June 1, McMillan defended the La Mesa Civil Defense group as being formed only to be a presence and de-escalation body. He noted that he provided medical care to a young woman who interrupted somebody trying to start a fire at the city’s historic depot.

But in response to a California Public Records Act request, La Mesa police released a summary of four calls from a woman seeking an investigation of actions taking place on the roof of McMillan’s law office.

Another area resident who wished to remain anonymous told Times of San Diego that he, too, called the police about McMillan the night of the rioting.

At 12:19 a.m. May 31, the summary said, a call was received reporting armed business owners on the roofs of their buildings at Lemon/Nebo, with a group of about 20 rioters yelling at them from the ground below.

“The information was broadcast to officers in the field,” police said. “At 12:25 a.m., another call was received from the original reporting party in the above call regarding multiple males with guns in the parking lot who said they were protecting their property. The caller stated they almost shot a ‘kid’ and were yelling at people passing by. There were no other calls regarding gunshots, or calls from anyone who said they had been shot at.”

La Mesa Police Department response to Times of San Diego questions. (PDF)

At 3:49 p.m. June 11, the report said, the original caller recontacted the La Mesa Police Department regarding this incident, saying they wanted to file a report about the males on the roof of the Scott [McMillan] Law Office building on Nebo.

“An officer tried to contact the caller at 4:15 p.m., but there was no answer and a voicemail was left,” said the report. “The caller re-contacted on 6/12/2020 at 10:22 a.m. stating she was available for the officer’s call. She was contacted by an officer and the call was closed with an advisement on 6/12/2020 at 11:24 a.m. No crime report was taken.”

The summary report was all La Mesa could offer, saying no underlying written reports were available. La Mesa police and city officials didn’t respond to further requests for comment.

La Mesa police have arrested several people in connection with the looting and arson the night two banks were razed and an architectural design firm’s historic building was leveled by fire. Months of review await surveillance video and news footage.

McMillan — who first came under wide public scrutiny for a March 22 tweet suggesting the elderly were expendable in the pandemic for the sake of the economy — takes a stronger stance via his Twitter feed than his public statements about La Mesa Civil Defense.

He’s sympathetic to proactive policing in riot situations.

On his Twitter page (viewable only by people he approves), he called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to authorize use of lethal force against arsonists and retweeted a video titled “Looting Prevention 101.”

It shows a cowboy-hat wearing man ordering looters out of a store at gunpoint while yelling “Move! Move! Move!”

McMillan on June 2 wrote: “I will defend my property with my life. I will defend my neighbor’s property with my life. If you want to take that property, it becomes a question of my life or yours. I agree that you should not risk YOUR life for my property. Go work and buy your own property.”

Sampling of Scott McMillan tweets on security issues. (PDF)

In any case, McMillan this week indicated less worry for his neighbors’ safety.

“La Mesa has returned to normal,” he said Wednesday via email. “This subject is no longer of interest to me.”

Asked if this meant the Facebook group was disbanding or he thought La Mesa is no longer under threat, he replied: “I hope that La Mesa is not under threat. I don’t see any indications at this time that there is a threat. And, if there are problems, I expect that LMPD will address them.”

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