Reap the Whirlwind: Bestselling Author Peter Houlahan & the Sagon Penn Story

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Peter Houlahan, the bestselling author of Norco 80, presents his latest true crime book about the incident that forever altered how San Diego would respond to policing and communities of color, Reap the Whirlwind: Violence, Race, Justice, and the Story of Sagon Penn. After the presentation, there will be a Q&A and a book signing. This event is free and open to the public. Proceeds support the San Diego Public Library System.

About the Book:

The bestselling author of Norco 80 returns with a riveting story of mid-1980s San Diego that placed one young Black man at the center of a whirlwind of crime and punishment that profoundly altered Southern California. March 31, 1985. Two white patrol officers in search of a gang member followed a pickup truck carrying seven young Black men up a dirt driveway in the Encanto neighborhood of Southeastern San Diego. Minutes later, gunshots rang out, and the truck’s driver, Sagon Penn, fled the scene in an officer’s patrol car. The incident stunned the city. What followed would change it forever. Penn was an idealist who believed in the power of Buddhist chants to bring about the oneness of humanity. The two police officers were rising stars in one of the most progressive police departments in the country, yet one that had suffered more officers killed in the line of duty than any other. While the facts of the case were never in dispute, what remained unresolved was what, if anything, could justify such a violent confrontation? For over two years, a determined prosecutor and a charismatic defense attorney engaged in a sensational courtroom drama that revolved around matters of mental health, racial biases, and the self-image of a once-sleepy beach town grappling with its transformation into a major metropolitan area. The Sagon Penn incident forever altered how San Diego would respond to incidents involving police and communities of color. Based on court transcripts, personal interviews, and archival police reports, Reap the Whirlwind is a gripping true-crime narrative set against the evocative backdrop of Southern California.

About the Author:

Peter Houlahan is an author, freelance writer, and book review contributor. His work has appeared in Salon, Los Angeles Magazine, The Daily Mirror, and The Orange County Register. His first book, Norco 80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History, was a finalist for an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Hammett Prize, and a Macavity Award. Originally from Southern California, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where he works as an emergency medical technician. Find out more at www​.peter​houla​han​.com.