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Fatal stabbing at a Ventura eatery elicits anger at the police response and the city's handling of its homeless problem

Fatal stabbing at a Ventura eatery elicits anger at the police response and the city's handling of its homeless problem
Anthony Mele Jr. and his 5-year-old daughter, Willow, enjoying a picnic lunch. (Courtesy of the Mele family)

The mother of a Ventura man who was randomly stabbed to death while dining at a beachside restaurant with his daughter on his lap was still grappling this weekend with the loss of a man she described as "a good husband and a loving father."

Anthony Mele Jr., 35, was having dinner with his wife, Hana, and their 5-year-old daughter, Willow, at the Aloha Steakhouse on the city's promenade Wednesday night when a homeless man walked up and stabbed Mele in the neck, police said.

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Mele was transported to a local hospital, where he later died, authorities said.

The suspect "came in and straight up stabbed him," Rebecca Mele, 57, the victim's mother, said in an interview with The Times on Sunday. "It was so quick, my son turned and was stabbed while he's holding his daughter."

Jamal Jackson, 49, a homeless man with a criminal history, was chased by bystanders and arrested a short time later, authorities said.

Police received a call about 6:25 p.m. Wednesday from a bystander who reported that a man, who was later identified as Jackson, was yelling and being disruptive on the promenade, according to a statement from the Ventura Police Department. Police said they used a pier security camera to monitor the man's actions for more than 20 minutes before he walked out of the camera's view.

"During that time, Command Center staff determined Jackson did not appear to be disturbing or threatening and cancelled the call for service," the police department said in its statement. Police received multiple 911 calls about Mele's stabbing at the restaurant shortly after 9 p.m.

Rebecca Mele said her family is upset the police didn't do more.

"This guy was being watched the whole time; he was being monitored by the cops and they didn't do anthing," she said. "The cops didn't come and instead watched him on camera … so he was still walking around at night."

The elder Mele said she saw some of the video from a restaurant security camera that was taken the night her son was killed. She said the suspect continued to act in a disturbing manner after the stabbing.

"You know what the man does after that?" she said. "He walks away and as he is leaving he put his arms up, like he did something good, at least to me it felt that way. He walked out and exited, put his hands up and people chased him down."

She said that emergency personnel tried to stop her son from bleeding "but when you get hit in the artery there's not much you can do." She said she is angry with the city and said officials need to do more to deal with the city's homeless problem.

"To the mayor, I say, 'What are you doing?'" she said. "This is your city and so are the homeless people. We should have something to provide for them. It's very hard. I understand there were complaints [about the suspect's behavior], the police didn't answer and now my son is dead."

Mele said her son, who was a branch manager for AT&T, was the oldest of four siblings, including three sisters, and was a graduate of Nordhoff High School. She said he grew up in Oak View, Calif.

"We are a very close family," she said. "We have a lot of love and support for Hana and Willow."

She said her son was off from work the day he was killed and wanted to have dinner with his family at the beachside restaurant.

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"It's a sick thing," she said. "My son was a wonderful, loving father. His daughter loved him to death…. He was an all-around good guy and a good son."

Ventura police said they have increased patrols around the promenade since the incident and issued a statement, sending "sincere condolences to the Mele family and all those impacted by this tragic loss and horrific crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time."

But Rebecca Mele said city officials are going to hear from the community about her son's death and about the continuing homeless problem in the area.

"There's going to be a lot of action around here because of this incident," she said.

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