By Kellie Chudzinski
Images of homeless people engaging in open drug use and public sex acts on the streets of Venice and Santa Monica are becoming an increasingly common sight on social media platforms, but none so disturbing as footage of an alleged rape and beating of a heavily inebriated homeless woman on Lincoln Boulevard south of Rose Avenue.
Los Angeles police are further investigating the Jan. 17 incident outside Alka Logic Water in Venice, initially investigated as an assault, after a witness provided video showing what she believes to be a rape occurring prior to that attack.
According to an LAPD spokesman, officers initially responded to the location at around 6:24 p.m. for an assault with a deadly weapon call. The alleged perpetrator already gone when officers arrived, the victim was taken to the hospital and later released after declining to press charges.
The witness, a Venice resident who asked to be identified as CM due to fears for her safety, shared video with police and the public that she believes depicts the same victim being sexually assaulted less than 30 minutes before being battered by a different man.
In the clip, the woman lays motionless as a man thrusts against her. From what can be seen, the man appears to be white and middle-aged, with a lean-build, shaggy dark brown hair and short-cut brown facial hair.
CM said that when she arrived at the business, she took note of a woman who appeared to be homeless lying on the ground, drinking a bottle of alcohol and “slurring her words.” Not long after, CM recounted that she saw a man run over toward the woman from a homeless encampment across the street.
“[He] pulled his pants down and started having sex with her,” CM said, explaining that she initially began recording what she believed to be a “disgusting” consensual encounter. It was only after moving outside to continue documenting that CM noticed the woman was “passed out in her vomit while he was having sex with her,” she said.
“It was awful,” CM recalled. “It’s a horrible thing if she was raped, which I think she was.”
According to CM, the man involved in the possible rape fled the scene when a much larger man approached, also from the homeless encampment. It was this second man she recorded yelling at the woman who allegedly hit the woman in the face before breaking a bottle over her head. The assailant had half of his face covered in a bandana, was bald or had a shaved head and appeared to weigh about 280 pounds.
“You want to accuse me of f***ing cheating, b***h?” he can be heard yelling in the video as he gets closer to her face before storming towards the witness recording the encounter, at which point the video ends.
CM said the police were called after she recognized the woman to be unconscious during the alleged sexual assault. However, LAPD only has knowledge of a call for the assault with a deadly weapon, roughly 30 minutes after the alleged sexual assault took place, said LAPD Pacific Division Capt. Steve Embrich.
Embrich confirmed that officers responded to the business around 6:30 p.m. that Friday. He said officers interviewed the victim twice within a few hours after the incident. In both interviews, the victim denied a sexual assault took place and declined to press charges.
The video of the alleged assault got attention from residents after it was posted on NextDoor, the Venice (California) Community Facebook Group and various Venice-related Twitter accounts. Many commenters were frustrated that witnesses did not make attempts to stop either attack.
“My shock is really the person videoing the women being raped! Why not yell at the guy to stop!! I mean so many things wrong,” one wrote, with many posting similar sentiments. Another added, “If she didn’t look homeless and the first attacker didn’t look homeless would the bystanders not stand by? Would they actually help a woman being attacked?”
Others have commended the person behind the camera for exposing a crime and for recording evidence for the police.
Embrich expressed interest in speaking to the victim a third time due to the attention the incident has received. The police are still looking for any information from the public related to the case.
Violence is a common occurrence in the lives of homeless women. A 2016 study by the Downtown Women’s Center found that half of homeless women surveyed reported experiencing violence within the past year. Last year the number of homeless women in Greater Los Angeles rose to 17,482, according to the county’s annual Homeless Count.