Beach-Goers Angry, Wary After Rape in Santa Monica
Wary sun and sea worshipers ventured onto Santa Monica beaches Saturday, expressing anger, shock and dismay over news that a woman was raped on an open stretch of sand there in broad daylight.
Meanwhile, Santa Monica authorities said police have interviewed two men who matched the description of the assailant, but said no suspect has been identified and the trail may be growing cold.
Santa Monica Police Sgt. Larry Anderson said the detective assigned to the case had the weekend off, and that the investigation consisted of patrol officers looking for men matching the description of the attacker during the course of their usual rounds.
“When faced with a crime like this, where you only have a description, all you can really do is look for anyone who matches that description,” said Sgt. John Hudson. Anderson said, however, that police have gathered evidence from the site of the attack, just north of the Santa Monica Pier.
Police continued to withhold details of the assault, in which a 22-year-old USC student was raped for more than an hour until about 6 p.m. Wednesday just off the 1200 block of the Promenade, a concrete walkway next to the bike path. The assailant allegedly held a knife to her back.
Many women said Saturday they are taking extra precautions, such as sitting with friends or closer to the lifeguard stands.
“I hate this--it’s so unfair,” said Karissa Price, who was walking in the surf alone. “Now I can’t even go out in the daytime by myself? It’s like a woman’s worst nightmare.”
Kris Brooks, on a day trip from Las Vegas, said: “It’s really terrifying. No woman should come here alone, if they had any brains.”
Asked what precautions she takes, Brooks turned to her male companion and said: “I bring a man with me.”
“Maybe there should be more patrols or something,” said Beth Neshat, an accountant from Reseda. “Where were the lifeguards? Maybe they should be paying more attention.”
Lifeguards also were on edge Saturday and on the lookout for the assailant, even though they have been instructed to follow normal procedures. There is no evidence that lifeguards failed in their duties to protect the woman--who did not cry out because of fear for her life--but the attack has left some of them frustrated and angry.
“Every lifeguard is thinking that that (woman) could be their wife or their girlfriend,” said lifeguard Arthur Verge, on duty at the station closest to the attack. “It just kills you inside.”
Verge, a 17-year veteran lifeguard, said locals call the area “the Gobi Desert” because of its size; there are more than 200 yards of sand from the lifeguard towers to the Promenade, and even more between the towers.
Such distances, the number of people around and respect for their privacy makes preventing trouble difficult, Verge said. “And if you start watching that stuff, you’re going to have a kid drown, and that’s the bottom line,” he said. “You can’t take your eyes off the water for a second.”
Lt. Dan Cromp, a lifeguard supervisor in Santa Monica, said understaffing forces him to staff lifeguard stations depending on the ebb and flow of the crowds. On Wednesday afternoon, only one of three area stations was open because the beach was sparsely populated, he said.
Cromp also said lifeguards should be watching the water more than the crowds behind them. “We’re trying to monitor that stuff, but we’re spread pretty thin. . . . Besides, what are you going to do with a 24-year-old couple playing kissy-face--go hassle them? We can’t do that.”
Lifeguards have twice noticed suspicious men closely resembling the suspect, whom police described as a dark-complexioned man, 25 to 30 years old, about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, with dark hair, Cromp said.
On both occasions, Thursday and Friday afternoon, lifeguards followed the suspects until police arrived. Police questioned the men and took photographs but determined that neither was the attacker, Cromp said.