Family claims gunman who killed SDPD officer was brainwashed - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Family claims gunman who killed SDPD officer was brainwashed

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Dejon White Dejon White
Bikbaye Inejnema Bikbaye Inejnema
Officer Jeremy Henwood Officer Jeremy Henwood

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS8) - The family of a City Heights man who shot and killed San Diego Police Officer Jeremy Henwood is claiming the gunman, Dejon White, may have been brainwashed.

Relatives told News 8 that White joined a spiritual group called The Earth Center several months before the Aug. 6 shooting incident.

The Chicago-based spiritual group hosts lectures all over the country to recruit new members, including one last month at the Malcolm X Branch Library near the communities of Emerald Hills and Valencia Park.

The Earth Center offers a spiritual education in Egyptian hieroglyphics, yoga and meditation, and herbal healing based on ancient African heritage.  Following an initiation period, new members of the group take on African names.

Dejon White, 23, was homeless when The Earth Center recruited him.

Family members say he became obsessed with the group's 77 commandments, reincarnation, and the rhetoric of its current leader, Bikbaye Inejnema.

It was against that backdrop, Dejon White went on the shooting rampage that severely injured El Cajon resident Martin Hanna and killed Officer Henwood.

Police later opened fire on White – armed at the time with a shotgun – and killed him.

White attended Sunday Earth Center classes at the WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park.

White's mother, Tamica Berason, recently obtained her son's two-page suicide letter.  In it, Berason said White rambled about reincarnation and apologized to leaders of The Earth Center for going against the group's commandments.

Following his son's death, White's father, Sean, told investigators he was "shocked at Dejon's actions and felt the group had ‘gotten in his head,'" according to White's autopsy report.

In a statement to News 8, leaders of The Earth Center wrote:

The Earthcenter represents peace, unity and understanding among humanity. Although we are not a religious organization, we do not condone, teach or promote violence in any form. The unfortunate recent events involving a student of the traditional education the Earthcenter offers sent shockwaves throughout the organization. We know many people are looking for an answer as to why this are we. Our sympathy goes out to the families who were affected by this terrible incident.

San Diego police detectives are still investigating how White obtained the shotgun he used to murder Officer Henwood. Because of a prior grand theft conviction, White could not have purchased that weapon legally.

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