Suspect in Hollywood stabbing had history of mental health issues
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
A homeless man accused of killing a woman visiting one of Hollywood’s most famous tourist destinations was well known to authorities.
Over the last eight years, Dustin James Kinnear, 26, was arrested at least 46 times, including seven arrests for assault with a deadly weapon, according to court records and interviews. Along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he had a reputation as an aggressive panhandler and troublemaker.
His mother said he had been in and out of mental health treatment facilities since age 5 and suffered from multiple conditions that could make him violent.
“I always knew I would get a call about him being dead or doing something awful,” said April Pena, a Tucson police detective. “Our family is beside itself. We are really sick because we know he’s taken a life. We think of him as the young person we once knew. But I’ve called the police on him many times.”
Kinnear has roamed the streets of Hollywood since 2008. Pena said he left Tucson, his hometown, after a court had ordered him to undergo mental health treatments.
But in Hollywood, his criminal behavior got progressively worse, records show.
On the evening of June 18, he and another homeless man were sitting near the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex when Christine Calderon and a co-worker walked past. She pulled out her cellphone to snap a picture of three transients displaying signs asking for money with four-letter insults and a smiley face. One of the men demanded that she pay a dollar for the picture. When she refused, police say, two of the men allegedly pinned Calderon’s co-worker against a wall. Kinnear allegedly jumped on Calderon and fatally stabbed her.
Kinnear was charged with murder last week and pleaded not guilty.
In the wake of the slaying, LAPD officials and local prosecutors have defended their handling of Kinnear. They said they aggressively pursued him and sought the maximum punishment available under the law.
But some officials said the case illustrates how chronic offenders with mental problems can slip through the cracks until it is too late.
“There were red flags all over this guy, and the system was color blind,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Kinnear had a lengthy arrest record both in Tucson and in Los Angeles. Many of them were for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana and trespassing.
But in November 2010, Kinnear wandered into a Subway sandwich shop in Hollywood and tried to take a soda. A security guard confronted him. Kinnear allegedly grabbed a broomstick and struck the guard on the head, saying, “I’m going to kill you.”
He was arrested and later pleaded guilty to assault with great bodily injury. Kinnear got a year in jail for the felony assault plus three years probation. He received 49 days credit for time served and spent several months in jail before going on probation.
But within weeks of being released from jail, Kinnear violated his probation with various misdemeanor charges such as defecating in public and failing to appear in court and for probation meetings, records show. Over the next year, judges would revoke his probation a dozen times.
In September 2011, his public defender, Marya Shahriary, told a judge of Kinnear’s mental problems.
“We have a young man who is bipolar, paranoid schizophrenic and epileptic. Before this problem, he was described taking Klonopin and Dilantin,” she said, referring to two drugs used to treat anxiety, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and seizures.
Shahriary said Kinnear had not been able to attend all his court appearances because he was injured in a bike accident in Hollywood. She added that he was trying to turn his life around by working at a West Hollywood food bank.
During this period, Kinnear was frequently in and out of jail, serving small stretches before being released. In June 2012, he was ordered to attend a yearlong residential drug treatment program but fled the facility within a few weeks.
Kinnear was arrested in two more assaults in 2012. First, he was accused of attacking a fellow transient. Then, he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend with a knife and brass knuckles. Both cases were eventually dismissed because the victims failed to show up for court, according to prosecutors and court documents.
But prosecutors argued that Kinnear had violated his probation by possessing the weapons. In December, a judge ordered him to state prison for three years and ordered him to receive mental health treatment. But that sentence was drastically reduced because he was given credit for various shorter stints in jail. He ended up spending four months behind bars before being released April 6.
He was arrested four days later, though court records don’t list the offense. He was released, then arrested again April 27 for allegedly making false statements to an officer (he was later convicted on that charge). He was arrested on May 26 on suspicion of battery and pleaded no contest to that charge two days later. He was released from jail May 29, only to be picked up again for an unspecified probation violation, authorities said.
He was back on Hollywood Boulevard panhandling last week when he allegedly attacked Calderon.
Christian Calloway, an actor who portrays homeless men in movies and often spends time in Hollywood, said he crossed paths with Kinnear and his friends.
“I know those guys, and I could have told you these guys are major trouble,” he said.
“He was known to this community as not someone that you would mess with,” said Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance.
His mother said she was aware of her son’s deteriorating mental condition and tried to get him into some kind of mental facility.
“I spoke to LAPD I don’t how many times,” Pena said.
There is no record of Kinnear being placed on a mental health hold. LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said such holds are generally ineffective with chronic offenders and that getting them into the court system gives them better access to mental health services.
Pena said her son told her he carried a knife for protection on the streets.
“I told him no good would come from it.”
For the record, 6:22 p.m., June 25: A previous version of this post said Dustin Kinnear served time in L.A. county jail. He served his sentence in state prison.
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