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Girl’s Face Slashed as Bystanders Watch

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As three bystanders looked on but did nothing to help, an angry panhandler demanding money at a downtown trolley stop slashed the face of a 16-year-old girl high school student with a butcher knife Monday, police said.

Erica Danielle Moore of Bonita suffered a 3 1/2-inch cut across the bridge of her nose, a 1 1/2-inch cut on her left cheek and a 1-inch cut on her left temple. She was treated at Balboa Hospital, but the cuts were not deep enough to require stitches.

San Diego police released a composite sketch of the attacker Thursday and described him as a 20- to 25-year-old Latino, 6-feet tall, weighing 180 pounds, with shoulder-length reddish hair, gap-teeth, greenish-blue eyes, several days growth of beard and large, protruding ears.

Moore told robbery detectives that the man approached her at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the northwest corner of Market and 12th streets, where she was waiting for a trolley to take her home. He asked her for money, and she said she had none. The attacker became upset and screamed “I want your money!” as he grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her.

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She began yelling for help and said three men who appeared to be waiting for the trolley looked on without seeking help or getting involved.

“They didn’t help. That’s pretty outrageous,” said Detective Laurie Wray. “She struggled anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and they just stood there and watched. It’s pathetic.”

Moore said she was thrown to the ground on her back, and the man demanded money again. He punched Moore in the face and repeated his order. Then he held up the butcher knife, made a final demand for money, and cut her face in three places.

Several cars drove up to the intersection, and the assailant fled east on Market Street.

Stunned and bleeding, Moore boarded the trolley, where a woman offered her a handkerchief. She returned home and her mother called police before taking her to the hospital.

“We get a lot of robberies that start out as panhandling, which is not unusual, but slashing a woman’s face is very unusual,” Wray said. “She didn’t provoke or antagonize him. She wasn’t on a dark corner in an isolated area. It was daylight. There was traffic. She wasn’t flashing money. She just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Police describe Moore as bright and articulate, one of three children from a middle-class family. Her description of the attacker is filled with good detail, Wray said. “She’s very observant, a pretty good student and a nice kid,” she said.

Moore’s face is lined with scars, Wray said, and the arm that was twisted behind her is in a cast. She has a minor head injury. She told Wray that she never wants to ride a trolley again.

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The attack on Moore heightens concerns about the increasing aggressiveness of panhandlers and transients on city streets. Police say that it is common for panhandlers to try to steal wallets from passers-by who stop and offer a few dollars.

Twelve officers and two police sergeants that constitute the “Downtown Walking Team” made 1,068 felony arrests and 8,772 misdemeanor arrests on city streets in 1990, mostly involving transients and panhandlers. Those figures dwarf arrests made by other police divisions that have 150 to 170 officers, Sgt. Mark Dallezotte said.

Dallezotte said he feels no sympathy for panhandlers, and neither should anyone working or shopping downtown.

“A lot of these panhandlers make $30 to $50 a day just getting a handout,” he said. “When people start giving them money, they are feeding a disease.”

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Panhandling is a misdemeanor, and those who are arrested are brought downtown and released after they get a ticket and sign a promise to appear in court. Misdemeanor offenses do not result in bookings because the jails are too crowded to hold any but felony suspects.

Dallezotte said panhandlers are usually back on the street an hour after they are arrested.

On Monday and Tuesday, Dallezotte’s team went undercover and made dozens of arrests on panhandlers and transients as part of a special detail. They started their assignment at noon Monday, half an hour after Moore was attacked.


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