Residents of popular Southern California city on edge amid wave of violence

After a wave of violent incidents in Santa Monica, residents and city officials are expressing some serious concerns, with the city’s mayor asking for emergency funds, more police and state assistance.

“There’s beautiful things about the city, but we’re losing it,” Christina Tullock, who lives on the Santa Monica-Venice border, said.

Tullock told KTLA’s Rachel Menitoff that she regularly sees one violent attack after another and believes the issues causing the problems are mental health and drug related.

“You can have as much enforcement as possible, but the cops can’t do anything until something happens,” she explained. “What I’d like is to see something preemptively happen, which is help people who are sick, help people who are on drugs.”

Still, as crowds flock to the Santa Monica Pier ahead of next weekend’s Fourth of July holiday, the city has been home to a string of violent attacks since the first of the year.

Just this weekend, five men were arrested after a giant brawl broke out on the beach, leaving one person stabbed and another with a broken ankle. Both victims were hospitalized.

Earlier in the week, 32-year-old Jawann Dwayne Garnett, who police say is homeless, was arrested after violent attacks on three female beachgoers. He has since been charged with attempted rape and attempted murder.

On June 11, a 26-year-old man at Jameson’s Pub on Main Street in Santa Monica punched and killed the bar’s manager after he was one of several patrons asked to leave the establishment.

Late in May, a 39-year-old man believed to be homeless was arrested after reportedly attacking a 73-year-old woman, leaving her with minor injuries. Bystanders also said the suspect had been seen trying to punch others in the area.

Almost a week and a half before that attack, 29-year-old Larry Ameyal Cedeno was arrested after what appears to be a entirely unprovoked assault near Parking Structure 7 in the 1500 block of 4th Street that left two people hospitalized with stab wounds, one who was listed in critical but stable condition.

On May 16, a Venice resident who was jogging in the 2000 block of Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica was violently dragged by the hair and pulled toward the restrooms. Police said 48-year-old Malcolm Ward, a parolee, intended to sexually assault the victim.

He was arrested and has since been charged with attempted kidnapping and assault with the intent to commit rape.

Some people who frequent Santa Monica, like Howard Zickefose, said it’s confusing and disconcerting to be out and about in the city and then suddenly caught up in a swarm of police activity.

“We were having a wonderful time, returning from shopping at Trader Joes in the middle of the day yesterday and we were swarmed by police,” he said of Saturday’s beach brawl. “They were driving in every direction and there were helicopters flying.”

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Santa Monica resident Elizabeth Brown cautioned tourists in the area to stay aware of what and who is around them while visiting.

“If you live in a really safe environment and you come here, you just need to be a little more acutely aware of your surroundings,” she explained.

Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock says the issues facing Santa Monica are happening across Los Angeles.

“Some of the same crime patterns, some of the same theft, some of the same behavior comes from unhinged homeless people who are on drugs or mentally ill,” he said. “It [also] comes from people who cross the border and say, ‘Hey, Santa Monica is lucrative, let’s make some of our money here.’”

Brock’s plan is to saturate business and residential areas with police officers in order to stop crimes before they happen, but said he needs funding to do that. He adds that he also needs help from the court system, the district attorney’s office and the state of California.

According to the mayor, though, the city council rejected his proposal to take a few million dollars from the city’s budget for emergency security use through the summer. That additional funding, he said, could go toward increasing patrols in the area and hopefully alleviate the concerns of people, like Matt Gotzka, on the boardwalk.

“You don’t want to hear about attempted stabbings and violence toward people on the beach,” Gotzka told KTLA. “You’re here trying to have a good time.”

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