Past troubles come to light for ex-Soka University student accused of making criminal threats

The problems started four days after David Kenneth Smith and his mother moved into Barbara Fleck’s white bungalow in Pico-Union four years ago.

Fleck said Smith — accused of making criminal threats toward Soka University in Aliso Viejo — had angry tirades that resulted in screaming matches with other tenants. She said he would leave odd notes on others’ doors and once threw a bucket of water on a housemate’s bed. She said tenants would hear him verbally abuse his mother.

For the record:

11:25 p.m. Nov. 7, 2017An earlier version of this article said Smith published videos to YouTube under the name Kind David. The name was King David.

Los Angeles police officers responded to the house at least six times.

Leaning against a chain-link fence Tuesday with several chihuahuas wandering around the front yard, Fleck said it took about $20,000 to relocate Smith and his 73-year-old mother this summer after several failed attempts to evict them.


“Listen, $20,000 is cheap if it meant not getting shot up,” Fleck said. “God saved our lives.”

Smith’s troubled past began to emerge a day after he pleaded not guilty to one felony count. Orange County prosecutors said the case stems from YouTube videos Smith published under the name “King David.” In the videos, Smith posed with firearms, praised the gunmen from previous mass shootings and threatened to go on a “killing spree.”

Prosecutors alleged that Smith also sent emails to a staff member at Soka University and “threatened violence on the campus.” The emails included a link to one of the YouTube videos.

“Investigators believed the suspect’s threats were credible and an attack possible,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

Smith and his mother moved into the Pico-Union house in 2013, shortly after they had been evicted from another house near USC. Fleck said she initially was going to rent a room to the pair, but had a strange feeling about Smith and instead offered the garage to them.

“He was particularly upset with me about that because I had promised him the room,” she said.

The first few days were peaceful. Tenants said Smith was kind enough to let them use his Internet connection and gym equipment. Fleck said Smith was mostly on the computer and worked as a professional photographer.

Then the trouble began.

Tenants said Smith would turn off the Internet without notice and prohibited people from using his gym equipment. He would get into arguments with tenants, sometimes shouting at them.

“He was like a little boy, a little boy with a toy,” Fleck said. “He shares it for one minute and then he takes it back.”

Tenants said any perceived inconvenience or disrespect led Smith to retaliate. He would leave notes on doors, smash faucets and toilet seats out of anger.

“He would go through these rages,” said one longtime tenant who declined to give his name due to safety concerns. “He would just explode like a ticking time bomb.”

In January, the situation worsened. Fleck said Smith and his mother stopped paying the $375 monthly rent. In March she began the process of eviction, putting together a court case against the pair. As part of her preparation, Fleck included a narrative of the problems that occurred at the home, along with the original notes Smith left on her other tenants’ doors. She also accused him of domestic violence in the narrative.

“We did not see defendant David Smith hit his mother but we saw black and blue bruises on her arm,” Fleck wrote. “When questioned by police, she blamed the bruises on contact with the pets on the property.”

Janice Bender, who once rented a guesthouse to the pair, said tenants at her property had similar experiences with Smith. She said they would hear Smith yelling at his mother. Bender said the mother moved into the guesthouse first, and after Smith graduated from Soka University, he moved in, too. She said she had a difficult time trying to evict the pair after they stopped paying the $1,000 monthly rent.

Bender said that once while the pair lived at the guesthouse, Smith’s mother had been taken to a hospital after suffering a spiral fracture on her arm.

“She said David hadn’t done it and that she had fallen,” Bender said.

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Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.