Police Thought A Homeless Man Was Harmless. Then He Killed A Diner

“We shouldn’t have canceled the call. We still should have put boots on the ground,” said Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney.



Last week, a woman called 911 to report a disruptive man yelling at girls and women near the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ventura, California. That was the first of many calls about the homeless man later identified as Jamal Jackson, but the police failed to respond in a timely manner — a fact Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney later admitted to the Los Angeles Times — but the damage had already been done.

As Police Commander Todd Higgins recently told BuzzFeed News, the department did not have enough officers at the time, so they decided to monitor the situation through a surveillance camera for nearly 30 minutes before eventually determining that Jackson, who was seen interacting with passersby, did not pose a threat.

They were wrong.

Mere hours later, the 49-year-old entered a restaurant named Aloha Steakhouse and without any provocation stabbed Anthony Mele Jr. in the neck while his young daughter was sitting in his lap and his wife was just across the table.

The 35-year-old victim was taken to the hospital where he later died while the police were able to catch Jackson, who has a long criminal history, after bystanders chased him down.

“All of our patrol units were tied up on other calls,” Corney told the LA Times, explaining how the authorities used a security camera to observe the suspect. “They didn't see any behavior that appeared to be concerning or significantly disruptive.”

Had the police responded after the first calls were made, Mele Jr.’s daughter would probably not have witnessed her father being murdered right in front of her.

The police chief also admitted the department had made a big mistake.


“We shouldn’t have canceled the call. We still should have put boots on the ground,” Corney added. “This has a huge impact on this organization. And the crime, that level of violence, a community that is not happy with the service we delivered, that has an impact not only on the police chief but certainly the Ventura police team. It’s horrible.”

Now, people across the city are protesting against the police response and asking the city council to tackle the area’s growing homelessness problem.

“We can’t go to the parks. We can’t go anywhere in the public without having to deal with a violent and aggressive vagrancy,” said Angela Smith, a demonstrator who helped organize a march on Venture City Hall following the fatal restaurant stabbing. “We need our City Council to invest in our public safety. That should be the utmost priority for us.”

She’s not the only one.

“I don’t want to see this City Council do anything else except deal with the violent, aggressive, homicidal homeless population in this town,” opined another resident.

However, some argued against the rhetoric, explaining how the entire homeless population should not be blamed for the vicious act of one particular individual.

“Any time an innocent person is killed is horrible," said a woman, according to local news channel KTLA 5. "To blame it on an entire community that has no place to live is not acceptable.”

Ventura resident Roy Foster, who was formerly homeless, also agreed.

“We need more low-income housing, we need a warming shelter year-round, we need individual case management for people who are on the streets, we need more jobs,” he said.

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Ventura County Sheriff's Office

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