Five months ago, the 72-year-old owner of The Cow’s End Café had a fingertip bitten off by a homeless man who attacked him inside his popular Venice Beach coffee shop.

Now Clabe Hartley is recovering from an Aug. 24 attack at his 14 W. Washington Blvd. eatery — this time after a mentally disturbed transient broke a molded resin patio chair against his head, causing a concussion and a gash that required staples to close.

Hartley described the man as “a 250-pound mental case, arms the size of thighs, always walking around angry” who frequently intimidated passersby and repeatedly scattered contents of a trash can outside The Cow’s End. The man was again scattering trash at around 3:30 p.m.  last Monday when Hartley came out to ask why.

“He said I was giving people cancer and he was going to change that. He said, ‘It’s time for you to get killed … you’re going to die,’ and approached me,” Hartley said. “I knew he was going to throw down on me. I had a can of pepper spray in my pocket. He was maybe two feet away, and I sprayed him in his eyes. It didn’t affect him
whatsoever. He said, ‘Is that the best you got?’”

The Cow’s End Café Photo by Edizen Stowell /

The Cow’s End Café
Photo by Edizen Stowell /

Hartley said he kicked the man’s midsection to push him away and went back into the restaurant.

But by the time Hartley reached the coffee counter, the man “grabbed one of my chairs outside and threw it from the middle of the sidewalk inside the store with such velocity that, when it hit me, a leg broke off of it,” Hartley said.

LAPD officers who happened to be driving by the restaurant as the chair was thrown immediately arrested the man, Hartley said.

“As a civilized society we have an obligation to take care of those who can’t help themselves. But there are people who can and choose not to, who steal and do drugs,” Hartley said.

“The LAPD is doing the best they can, but they can’t do it all,” he said. “I want to get a conversation going on how we can get City Hall to implement ordinances that are preventive rather than waiting until something like this happens. When the whole neighborhood knows you’re dealing with a psycho
but you can’t take them off the street and get them treatment until they commit a crime, there’s something wrong with that.”

— Joe Piasecki