In response to a recent sexual assault and new video of lewd behavior, residents and business owners in downtown Long Beach say the area is deteriorating due to the number of mentally ill and drug-dependent people living on the street.
“It’s daily, it’s daily. It’s scary. You don’t not feel safe walking the streets here,” Zoe Garcia, who works in the area, told KTLA’s John Fenoglio.
Garcia is referring to another disturbing video out of downtown Long Beach where a man exposes himself and masturbates in front of the windows at Salon 500 on East Broadway in broad daylight Wednesday afternoon.
Witnessing the incident from her shop across the street, Garcia called the police.
“They took two hours to arrive,” she said. “Most times, they don’t even come out.”
Rebekah Pederson was sexually assaulted just last week as she left the same salon.
Surveillance video of that incident shows her walking on a sidewalk near Linden and Broadway when the suspect, Miguel Avila, 30, suddenly stands up, exposes himself, and grabs her from behind.
She falls onto the ground as Avila appears to pull up her skirt and thrust himself against her. An older man sitting nearby is seen getting up and pepper spraying the suspect. Avila then runs away from the scene.
Pederson is angry that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file felony charges in the case.
“Nobody in their right mind looked at that video and thought anything less than attempted rape,” she told KTLA.
Long Beach’s City Attorney Doug Haubert has now charged the suspect with sexual battery and vandalism, all misdemeanors, saying it’s more serious charges the city charter will allow. Earlier this week, he wrote a letter to the L.A. DA’s Office urging them to reconsider the case.
“We think it’s very serious conduct,” Haubert said. “At the time of the case being brought to us, we thought it was felony level, but as we researched it and investigated even further, now we’re even more convinced it’s felony level.”
The L.A. DA’s Office confirmed to KTLA that they received Haubert’s letter and said, “The case was carefully reviewed previously. However, based on additional information, the head deputy of our sex crimes division will review the evidence and interview a witness that was located after our initial decision was made to determine whether any felony charges are provable.”
Avila remains in jail on a $75,000 bond and is due back in court on Nov. 8, though it’s unclear when the L.A. DA will conduct its second review of the case.
In the meantime, police said they are searching for the suspect involved in Wednesday’s lewd incident.