Courtroom gavel
A courtroom gavel. File photo

A Black man who alleges he was subjected to ongoing discrimination after leasing a room in San Diego County and that his landlord told him, “Your people are always making trouble,” is seeking to directly participate as a party in a lawsuit previously brought on his behalf by the California Civil Rights Dept.

In court papers filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court by the Legal Aid Society of San Diego Inc., Abdifatah Abdullahi seeks to intervene in the CRD complaint brought Oct. 31 against the Peter F. DeLuke trust, which seeks injunctive relief prohibiting future discrimination as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

The proposed complaint in intervention would include claims for discrimination, harassment and retaliation of Abdullahi because of his race throughout the course of his tenancy.

“The claims alleged by Mr. Abdullahi arise out of the same facts and occurrences that serve as the basis for the CRD action,” according to the Legal Aid papers, which additionally state that the CRD does not oppose Abdullahi’s wish to directly take part in the litigation.

In court papers filed Jan. 12 on his own behalf, Peter F. DeLuke Jr. of El Cajon denied any wrongdoing and stated that Abdullahi violated his lease agreement by tampering with the smoke detector in his room and by often smoking marijuana inside the residence.

The CRD is tasked with prosecutorial authority to investigate, mediate and litigate civil rights enforcement actions and has an office in Los Angeles County. The CRD completed its investigation into Abdullahi’s complaints last June and, based on the evidence, “found cause to believe that defendants had subjected Mr. Abdullahi to the threat of violence, discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of his race,” the suit states. Attempts to resolve the issues without litigation were unfruitful, according to the CRD.

The trustee of the Peter F. DeLuke trust is Peter DeLuke Sr. In October 2020, Abdullahi inquired about the availability of a room in a Lemon Grove home owned by Peter DeLuke Jr. The room had been advertised for lease on Craigslist for $580 in monthly rent and utilities of $250, the suit states.

Upon seeing the room, Abdullahi noticed blood and hair on the carpet and walls, but DeLuke Jr. told him he would have to pay if he wanted the room cleaned and that the rent must be given in cash, the suit states.

“Mr. Abdullahi agreed to these terms because he felt desperate to find housing,” according to the suit, which further states that  Abdullahi had been homeless after he was laid off from his job as an airline industry worker because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DeLuke Jr. subjected Abdullahi and the only other Black tenant to ongoing discrimination and a hostile living environment because of their race, saying “Your people are always making trouble,” “You people are lazy” and “You people are always looking for handouts,” the suit states.

DeLuke Jr. also called the other Black tenant the “N-word” at various times, the suit alleges. In a text message to the other Black resident, DeLuke Jr. wrote, “I am a racist,” according to the suit.

DeLuke Jr.’s alleged behavior made Abdullahi feel anxious and unsafe because he did not know what the man was capable of when he became angry, according to the suit, which further states that DeLuke Jr. “mentioned that he kept guns and other weapons at the property.”

DeLuke Jr. required Black tenants to pay additional costs for various reasons that were not required of white residents, the suit states. DeLuke Jr. also routinely entered the Black tenants’ bedrooms without notice and once banged on a bathroom door while Abdullahi was showering, telling him that he wanted a smoke detector installed, the suit states.

DeLuke Jr. then made racial statements when Abdullahi tried to keep him from entering his bedroom, the suit further alleges. After Abdullahi called the Sheriff’s Department to complain about DeLuke Jr.’s alleged use of racial language, the landlord subsequently created even more uninhabitable conditions at the home in retaliation, the suit states.

Abdullahi was ultimately forced to leave in February 2022 because of the ongoing issues at the home and he remained homeless until June, the suit states.

A hearing on Abdullahi’s motion to intervene is scheduled March 1 before Judge Malcolm Mackey.

–City News Service