ANDY NGO REPORTS: Antifa ringleader faces 16 felony charges in brutal San Diego attack—mob used tear gas, beat teenagers in 'MAGA' clothing

Andy Ngo and Eva Knott San Diego CA

This report is part of an ongoing series looking into the criminal investigation into a 2021 Antifa attack in San Diego. Read the rest of it here

Court documents reviewed by The Post Millennial reveal new details about a Los Angeles Antifa member accused of leading a gang of violent comrades at a riot in San Diego where beachgoers and Trump supporters were beaten. 

Brian Cortez Lightfoot, Jr., 26, of Los Angeles, faces the most serious charges related to a Jan. 9, 2021 Antifa riot in Pacific Beach, San Diego. Lightfoot was charged with 16 violent felonies last year when he and 10 other Antifa members were indicted by a San Diego County grand jury. So far, six Antifa defendants took plea deals over their role in the attack and are awaiting sentencing. Lightfoot is among the remaining five who face trial in March if they do not take plea deals before then.

Accused violent Antifa member Brian Cortez Lightfoot Jr. (left) in court. Photo: Eva Knott

Court documents reveal that San Diego Police detective Emily Clark testified she considered Lightfoot one of the Antifa “leaders” during the riot, in part because he was equipped with a yellow Dewalt radio communication device attached to the top of his black vest, seen under his chin in evidence photos.

Investigators claim the man on the left with the yellow radio is Antifa member Brian Cortez Lightfoot Jr.

“That’s something that I’ve seen at protests where radios are passed out to different members of the protests and used for co-ordination throughout the duration of the protest and then turned back in,” Clark testified. The detective said that Lightfoot was one of maybe four Antifa rioters who had a walkie-talkie that day. Radios are often the preferred communication tool by Antifa at direct actions due to the risk that their mobile devices—and the trove of communications they contain—could be confiscated as evidence during arrests.

However, Clark also noted that while a few individuals take on a leadership role in Antifa, there is no specific single leader. “The point of some of the structure within the Antifa movement is nonhierarchical collaboration, basically,” she said.

Lightfoot is also seen in evidence video with white cans of Frontiersman Bear Spray mounted on the front of his vest. Clark testified that the spray used by Antifa at the riot has ten times the potency of the pepper spray used by San Diego Police. 

According to the 2022 grand jury indictment, Lightfoot was part of a mob that surrounded victims and sprayed and shoved them to the ground, while other Antifa members used umbrellas to block the view of the assaults. Lightfoot, accused of using “reinforced Kevlar gloves,” and his co-conspirators allegedly punched and kicked victims. Prosecutors allege that Lightfoot and his co-conspirators chased after and caught their victims when they tried to flee.

Social Media

Lightfoot’s alleged social media communications played a role in the prosecutor’s evidence gathering. 

Three days before the riot, Lightfoot sent an Instagram message to an Antifa comrade in Los Angeles because he specifically wanted to stop by someone’s home to pick up bear spray, according to investigators. 

Lightfoot allegedly posted video and photos from other Antifa direct actions in southern California on his social media. In those photos, Lightfoot is seen wearing the same black bloc uniform with a can of bear mace that he allegedly wore in San Diego. In one photo Lightfoot posted online, he put the text “Antifa Boy” with a black flag next to it, and another photo of him was found captioned, “Antifa commander in chief”—again with the little black flag next to it, experts testified. The black flag used by Antifa members and supporters symbolizes anarchism. It is often coupled with the red flag of communism.

A detective for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office also testified in court last year about Lightfoot. Detective Jenny Christiansen told the court she recognized Lightfoot and that she shared with San Diego Police photos of Lightfoot taken during a direct action in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, 2021. In those photos, he wore a similar uniform disguise to the one he wore a few weeks earlier at the San Diego riot. It was also revealed that Lightfoot was arrested at a direct action in Los Angeles on March 13, 2021 and photographed by the LAPD. His mobile phone had a lock screen with the Antifa red and black flags logo along with the name of the group, “Antifascist Action.” These photos were used as evidence before the San Diego grand jury. 

An investigator for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office testified that he reviewed Lightfoot’s social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Google. Jonah Conley said Lightfoot used “ANTIFABOY,” “SOCAL.ANTIFA” and “BIGMONEYPAYSO” as some of his monikers. In one Gmail account, he was “ANTIFABOYACAB5.

On his Signal account, Lightfoot used the alias, “John Wick.”

The investigator said Lightfoot communicated with his co-defendants from Los Angeles: Luis Mora, Bryan Rivera, Martin Talab, and Christian Martinez, some of these messages were captured by investigators.

The 11 Antifa defendants and the status of their criminal cases as of February 2023

While making plans for traveling to San Diego, Lightfoot allegedly wrote, “I’m trying to go to San Diego. That’s where the action is going to be,” “I wanna fight” and "Yes, it’s going to be lit tomorrow.”

After Lightfoot was arrested in Los Angeles in March, his co-defendant Luis Mora sent out a message to other members of the cell: "Yo. Remove BIGMONEY and IMMORTAL. [Lightfoot and Faraz Martin Talab] They got snatched.” 

The morning of the direct action, on Jan. 9, 2021, at 11:19 am, Lightfoot allegedly sent an Instagram message to a social media account for far-left audio show, The Activated Podcast. “Got team coming from LA,” Lightfoot wrote. The Activated Podcast account replied: “Good to hear. We need all the numbers we can get. See you out there. Stay safe.” Lightfoot replied with the black flag emoji and clapping hands. 

We have reached out to The Activated Podcast for comment. 

Brian Lightfoot’s alleged attacks on Jan. 9, 2021

Investigator Conley testified, “So this is a picture in Pacific Beach near the pier by some apartments. This was on Brian Lightfoot’s BIGMONEYPAYSO Instagram page…. You can see that it is Brian Lightfoot in the front holding the corner of a red Antifa flag, and behind him is Christian Martinez, and then behind him is Martin Talab.”

An investigator presented this evidence to court, identifying the three masked Antifa militants from left to right as: Brian Lightfoot Jr., Christian Martinez and Faraz Martin Talab

There was a prolonged attack on two teenage boys charged as “Incident One” in the indictment. When Detective Emily Clark testified, she commented on video evidence shown to the grand jury: “You can see Brian Lightfoot who is actively deploying the tear gas weapon.” The boys were allegedly targeted because of their patriotic-themed and MAGA clothing.

Investigator Conley testified that he reviewed video of one attack labeled “Incident Four,” in which an Antifa mob attacked a woman and three males as they arrived at the beach. Conley testified that it was Jesse Cannon who first yelled, “Proud boy killa!” and gestured towards his targets before Lightfoot sprayed his can of bear mace into the woman’s face, which started the attacks.

Investigators said Brian Lightfoot Jr. (left) launched a bear mace attack that started the riot

An attack on two victims named as “J.C.” and “R.L.” was labeled “Incident Five” in the indictment. Victim “J.C.” identified himself to media as photographer John Cocozza. Prosecutors claim that evidence video shows those two victims fleeing towards Mission Boulevard, with Lightfoot and co-defendant Samuel Howard Ogden in pursuit.

A tall walking stick was allegedly handed from Ogden to Lightfoot, who then struck victim J.C. across his back. “We know that Brian Lightfoot struck Mr. C with a stick because we can see it on video,” prosecutor Makenzie Harvey said. This was charged as assault with a deadly weapon.

In this video still, Samuel Ogden allegedly brandished a stick at female victim, who has been tripped onto the ground

Photographer John Cocozza was beaten with a stick allegedly used by Brian Lightfoot Jr. at the Antifa attack in San Diego. The victim gave an interview to local news station KUSI

Police detective Emily Clark described evidence video showing Lightfoot following and assaulting a man in a blue shirt. Prosecutor William Hopkins inquired, “Does he appear to be throwing a haymaker towards the back of the victim in the blue plaid shirt’s head?” Detective Clark responded: “Yes.” 

At 2:49 p.m. a police helicopter captured video of Antifa militants throwing objects at a police line, according to Clark. “So, if you notice in the crosshairs there, I believe that’s Brian Lightfoot…See that he put his arm back and appeared to throw something this direction…” This is listed in the Indictment as Overt Act 80.

After the Riot

After police dispersed the Antifa mob, later the same day, Lightfoot sent out a message at 5:16 p.m., “We f— them up today!” with a laughing emoji. Lightfoot also posted a photo of a torn Trump flag, with a caption over it, “Got me something to take home” with laughing emojis.

Lightfoot has pleaded not guilty to 16 felony charges, including conspiracy to riot; plus nine different unlawful use of teargas charges; and six specific assault charges, against six different victims, those assaults are listed in the indictment as:

Count 19, assault on female M.A.
Count 20, assault on T.G. male companion of M.A.
Count 21, assault on victim four.
Count 22, assault on victim R.L., a man on his bicycle videoing the riot.
Count 24, assault on J.C. a photographer, and personal use of deadly weapon, a stick.
Count 26, assault on victim six.

Erich Louis Yach, a 38-year-old male-to-female transgender felon, was the first of the 11 defendants to make a plea deal in September 2022. He pleaded guilty to three violent felonies and was sentenced to four years and eight months in state prison.

Erich Louis Yach, a violent felon, was the first Antifa member to be convicted and sentenced to prison over the beach attack

In November last year, five additional defendants pleaded guilty to violent felonies. Sentencings for Christian Martinez, 24, Bryan Rivera, 21, Joseph Austin Gaskins, 22, Samuel Howard Ogden, 24, and Alexander Akridge-Jacobs, 32, are all set for March 1, 2023 in the Central courthouse in downtown San Diego. They remain at liberty on their own recognizance, awaiting sentencing.

Lightfoot is among five remaining defendants who continue to plead not guilty to all charges. Faraz Martin Talab, 28, Jesse Merel Cannon, 32, Jeremy Jonathan White, 40, and Luis Francisco Mora, 31 all  remain at liberty on their own recognizance and have trial set on April 3.


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