NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Catholic Charities hires armed guards following video posted by alt-right social media influencer

Catholic Charities San Diego ramps up security forces at its locations in two counties following threats after online video was posted by former Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe
Posted at 8:58 PM, Jun 13, 2024

SAN DIEGO — They are at banks, schools and bars.

But now, armed guards are stationed outside the facilities of one of San Diego's best-known charities.

Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego says it's under attack, and it's no coincidence this is happening during an election year.

CEO Appaswamy "Vino" Pajanor tells Team 10 that James O'Keefe, a well-known social media influencer, is behind the recent security risks. He said the hostilities had broken his heart.

“Our mission is grounded on what Jesus Christ said 2,000 plus years ago in Matthew 25. I was hungry, and you fed me, and I was naked; you clothed me. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was in prison, and you visited me," he said.

He noted that Catholic Charities has provided food pantries, homeless shelters and senior housing programs in San Diego and Imperial counties for over 104 years.

Over the last three years, the organization has expanded its mission by partnering with the federal government to provide services for refugees and asylum seekers.

The move triggered the wrath of what Pajanor calls far-right activists.

"So, the recent controversy is that there have been some, for a lack of better terms, influencers who are also agitators that are saying Catholic Charities is harboring undocumented, they call them as illegal individuals who are not in the United States legally," he said. "What the Border Patrol does is as soon as they process these individuals and give them these notice to appear documents, They release them to us….All the Catholic Charities is doing is to feed them, to shelter them, to take care of them.”

That, however, didn't sit well with O'Keefe, who made a name for himself doing undercover videos for Project Veritas, a far-right activist group.

That organization fired him last year after its board alleged he spent an excessive amount of donor funds on personal luxuries.

O'Keefe now runs his own media company. In March, he posed as a pest inspector and went to a Mission Valley hotel where Catholic Charities has a shelter.

He then posted a video online claiming illegal undocumented individuals were there.

The head of Catholic Charities says the video was inaccurate and dangerous.

He said the video prompted threats to him and his staff, and the organization contacted law enforcement.

Pajanor said the threats forced Catholic Charities, which has 20-plus locations in the two counties, to hire armed guards.

"Instead of us looking forward and trying to help the people who are coming to us, we have to look behind our shoulder now to see if anything is happening behind us," he said.

O'Keefe did not respond to several requests for comment.

Catholic Charities says it will continue to house asylum seekers despite the threats, and it will absorb the additional cost for armed security.