‘I didn’t deserve this:’ Street performer sucker-punched in Venice Beach speaks out

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A 61-year-old street performer who was beaten on the Venice Beach Boardwalk Sunday says he’s hoping his attacker goes to jail.

John Gavert was sucker-punched and knocked out around 12:30 p.m. in the 500 block of Ocean Front Walk. The attack was caught on cellphone video, which shows Gavert performing when a man walks past him, quickly turns around and punches him in the face, then walks away.

“I didn’t deserve this to happen,” Gavert told KTLA. “I was disoriented and I fell on the ground. I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Gavert is later seen on the ground being tended to as he holds his head.

The attacker, who Gavert believes may be homeless, has not been caught and is described as being between 30 to 40 years old.

“I think the guy belongs in jail,” Gavert said, adding that he was hospitalized for one day and has facial fractures. “And so it’s hard to eat. I can’t eat very well right now.”

While the motive remain unclear, Gavert says he had a minor disagreement with other street performers one day earlier.

The street performer, who used to worked in the insurance industry, now has an apartment in South Los Angeles and receives government assistance. He says he “lives to perform,” and that making others happy helped cure his yearslong bout with depression.

Gavert says he hasn’t given up on humanity — just Venice Beach, for now. He’s heading to Hollywood, where he’ll continue to perform.

“The fact that this guy attacked me, that opens my eyes a little bit more,” the street performer said.

Venice Beach has become a hotbed of controversy in recent weeks, over crime, homeless encampments and what the L.A. County sheriff describes as “anarchy.”

The same day that Gavert was attacked, a homeless woman with a knife was arrested at a campaign stop by a mayoral candidate, who was calling the city out for its response to the homeless crisis.

With an encampment stretching across much of the boardwalk and a spate of recent crimes alarming residents, the calls for city officials to take action in the area have grown.

At last count, there were nearly 2,000 homeless people in Venice, according to a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority count done in January 2020 that found more than 41,000 unhoused people citywide. (This year’s count was skipped due to the pandemic, but experts expect those L.A. figures to continue climbing into 2023.)

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the L.A. Police Department.

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