Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives are investigating a weekend melee in Palmdale in which a group of men beat a man and his girlfriend in front of a crowd in a parking lot where teen-agers congregate on weekends, authorities said Monday.
Joel Houtz, 22, suffered cuts and bruises when he was beaten and kicked by about eight men during the attack about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, deputies said. His girlfriend, Rebecca Campbell, 21, suffered cuts, bruises and a broken ankle, they said.
A teen-age girl in the crowd suffered slight leg injuries when she was struck by Campbell's car as Campbell tried to drive away with several assailants hitting her and smashing the car windows with a piece of concrete, authorities said.
On Monday, Sheriff's Department officials discounted initial reports that some in the crowd of about 100 people cheered during the attack, which took place in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant at 20th Street East and Palmdale Boulevard after the couple left an adjacent bar. But deputies said no one came to the couple's aid and said some onlookers grew angry and chased Campbell after her car struck the teen-age girl.
No one at the scene identified the assailants, who fled, deputies said.
Detectives said they are also trying to determine whether there was a racial element to the attack. Houtz is white, Campbell is Latina--Campbell is the name of a former husband--and the eight assailants were black. Deputies said they are looking into the possibility that the assailants were angered by tattoos depicting a swastika and the words "White Pride" on Houtz's back.
But Sgt. Joseph Fannin said Monday: "Right now there is no indication that the incident was racial."
The assailants may have seen the tattoos because Houtz was shirtless when he arrived at the bar about two hours earlier and, although he put on a shirt in the bar, it was torn off him during the fight, Campbell said in an interview Monday. But she and deputies said the men apparently made no racial remarks before or during the fight. She said the fight began when several men loitering in the parking lot pinched and harassed her as the couple walked to their car.
"Somebody hit me in the face and my boyfriend started fighting them," Campbell said. "Then we tried to leave and he got pulled out of the car."
Despite the tattoos, Campbell said, Houtz is not a racist but has the tattoos because he is "proud to be white."
"He doesn't have any affiliation with a gang or anything . . . I don't think if he was racial he would be going out with a Mexican."
Campbell, who did not want her maiden name used, said she is a Chicana who kept her married name when she divorced.
Campbell was pulled from the car and beaten before managing to drive away and call the sheriff's station from a convenience store as Houtz was beaten in the parking lot, deputies said. Deputies sent to the scene found Houtz injured and the assailants gone, they said.
Campbell, Houtz and the girl struck by Campbell's car were treated at local hospitals and released early Saturday morning.
The parking lot is a weekend gathering spot for teen-agers of all races, and violent incidents there are not uncommon, according to deputies and employees at neighboring businesses.