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Ventura police acknowledge mistake in father's fatal stabbing at restaurant

Ventura police acknowledge mistake in father's fatal stabbing at restaurant
Alicia Carman, of Ventura, looks at the memorial for Anthony Mele Jr., 35, outside of Aloha Steakhouse, where Mele was stabbed to death by a homeless man as he was having dinner with his wife and daughter. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ventura's police chief said Monday that his officers should have responded to reports of a disruptive man on the city's promenade and not relied on a pier security camera to assess the situation. Less than three hours later, police said, the man fatally stabbed a diner at a beachside restaurant.

The victim was identified as Anthony Mele Jr., 35, who was having dinner with his wife and 5-year-old daughter at a steakhouse when he was stabbed in the neck. He was taken to a hospital where he died.

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Police arrested Jamal Jackson, 49, a homeless man with a lengthy criminal history, after he was chased down by bystanders.

Chief Ken Corney said the department received a call about 6:23 p.m. describing a man yelling and being disruptive on the promenade near the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Jamal Jackson , 49, has been charged with murder.
Jamal Jackson , 49, has been charged with murder. (Associated Press)

"All of our patrol units were tied up on other calls," he said.

The 911 operations center used a security camera on the pier to watch the man.

"They didn't see any behavior that appeared to be concerning or significantly disruptive," the chief said.

At one point, the man later identified as Jackson took a photo of a couple, the chief said.

But Corney said officers should have eventually responded to the area. A decision was made by personnel at the 911 operations center, which can operate the security camera, to cancel the 911 response. The chief said that decision is being addressed within the department. He said the cameras are meant to supplement patrol officers, not replace them.

Corney would not detail what actions would be taken.

"Our practice is not to handle these calls by security cameras, it is to put boots on the ground," he said.

Corney said those in 911 center did not know the man on the footage was Jackson, who since the beginning of the year has had a number of run-ins with his officers throughout the city. Those incidents include a domestic violence arrest at the beginning of March at Cemetery Park, where prosecutors opted not to charge Jackson.

At a City Council meeting Monday evening, residents expressed frustration with the city's response to the homeless population.

"We have been devastated by the fires and we are now been run out by vagrants," said one speaker, adding that her kids have found men with spoons and needles in their yard. Her comments drew cheers and applause.

Another woman said she found a transient with an ax at her backdoor. "I cannot answer my front door anymore," she said.

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Twitter: @lacrimes

UPDATES:

8:55 p.m.: This article was updated with quotes from a City Council meeting.

This article was originally published at 5 p.m.

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