The mayor of Long Beach took to social media on Tuesday to address the disturbing sexual assault of a woman by a transient that was captured on camera.
“This incident is absolutely unacceptable,” said Mayor Rex Richardson in a video update streamed on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Every resident deserves to feel safe as they walk through our community.”
The attack occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 20 in the 140 block of Linden Avenue, in front of Village Market.
Surveillance video shows the victim walking alone when her attacker, who was sitting on the sidewalk, stands up, exposes himself, and grabs her from behind. She falls to the ground as the man pulls up her skirt and thrusts himself against her.
An older man who was sitting at a table on the sidewalk intervenes and pepper sprays the attacker, who then runs away, the video shows.
The victim, Rebekah Pedersen, bravely chose to speak publicly about the attack with KTLA’s Chris Wolfe.
“In that moment, I had no idea [what was happening],” she said. “My first thought was, ‘Is this someone I know playing a joke on me? Then, in a matter of seconds, I was like ‘Oh no. He’s not letting me go.’ So I turned really quick and fell to the ground.”
While traumatized and horrified by the attack, Pedersen also acknowledges the incident could have turned out much worse.
“I’m just lucky that it happened in daylight and not at night because then I probably would have been raped,” she said.
The suspect, 30-year-old Miguel Avila, was arrested not far from the scene. He has been charged with sexual battery and was being held on $1,000 bail. After his arraignment, the 30-year-old’s bail was increased to $75,000.
The attack is the most visible and recent example of what residents say is a deteriorating situation in downtown Long Beach caused by drug-addicted and violent transients.
In his social media message, Mayor Richardson said he is working with law enforcement to improve safety and will also ask Los Angeles County for additional resources.
“The reality is the substance abuse challenges, the mental health challenges, are affecting downtowns across our region. That’s why I’ll be asking for enhanced focus on our downtown.”