Far too often these days, it seems the general public learns after a terrible tragedy that the perpetrator of a horrific crime was known to law enforcement prior to their committing an atrocity.
That certainly appears to be the case in a grisly random murder in Ventura, California, where a man eating dinner with his wife and young daughter was brutally stabbed in the neck by a homeless man whose behavior prompted a call to police earlier in the evening.
KCBS-TV reported that Anthony Mele was eating at the Aloha Steakhouse on April 18 with his 5-year-old daughter in his lap when he was approached and randomly stabbed in the neck by a 49-year-old homeless man named Jamal Jackson.
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Thankfully the child was unhurt in the attack, but Mele ultimately died from his wound a day after he was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery.
Restaurant customers and employees followed the killer after the attack until police arrived and arrested him. Jackson has been charged with murder and child endangerment and was being held on a $500,000 bond.
But some wonder if the crime could have been prevented, as Fox News reported that police had been called a few hours earlier in the evening with reports of a homeless man exhibiting disruptive behavior to include yelling at people on a city promenade.
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Rather than send a patrol unit to survey the situation, the 911 operations center merely checked surveillance camera footage of the pier and monitored the man for about 20 minutes before ultimately cancelling the dispatch call when no such behavior was observed.
A portion of that video was released to the public, with no evidence of Jackson acting erratically. Rather, he appeared to be sitting calmly on a pier railing, and even engaged a passing couple in conversation before their picture for them with the woman’s smartphone.
Did the police make a mistake in how they responded to this threat?
However, the Ventura Police chief has admitted the decision to rely solely on the cameras and not send an officer to personally meet with the suspect was a mistake.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Chief Ken Corney said his department first received a call about Jackson shortly after 6 p.m.
“All of our patrol units were tied up on other calls,” Corney said, and explained how the security camera was used to observe the suspect. “They didn’t see any behavior that appeared to be concerning or significantly disruptive.”
But Corney also said an officer should have eventually been dispatched to the area as soon as one came available, and noted that an internal investigation into the decision to cancel the 911 dispatch had been initiated, as the cameras were merely meant to supplement officers, not replace them entirely.
“Our practice is not to handle these calls by security cameras; it is to put boots on the ground,” Corney said.
As you might imagine, local residents were outraged by the crime and made their feelings known during a City Council meeting Monday. One resident said her children had found drug addicts in their yard and claimed that she felt “run out by vagrants.” Another resident spoke of finding a homeless man at her door with an ax.
While there is some frustration with law enforcement, the police are not the guilty party in this case. Mistakes do occur and most departments are over-worked and under-staffed. That said, there probably should be some accountability in this particular case, with the chief admitting typical rules and procedures appear to have been violated.
In the end, what this tragedy really highlights is an unfortunate reality of life — the police can’t be everywhere at all times, meaning personal safety is up to each individual. That’s why Second Amendment advocates fight so vociferously to protect our natural right to bear arms for the defense of ourselves, our families and our country.
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