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Readers React: Advice for Ventura: When a man behaves erratically in public, arrest him before he hurts someone

Ventura residents march toward City Hall to voice their concerns over the killing of Anthony Mele Jr.
Ventura residents march toward City Hall to voice their concerns over the killing of Anthony Mele Jr.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Every once in a while there is an incident so outrageous that it should cause people to rethink certain assumptions, and the killing described in the article, “As Ventura seethes over fatal stabbing, police acknowledge mistake in handling of homeless man,” is one of those.

A man eating dinner in a restaurant with his wife and his daughter was killed, police say, by a homeless man with a history of violent crime. Just before then, the suspect in the killing had been reported to the police as being loud and disruptive, but the 911 dispatchers did nothing but monitor him by surveillance camera.

What is truly outrageous is the reaction of Ventura’s “advocates for the homeless.” They fear that the killing might “reverse the city’s progress in reaching out to its most vulnerable residents.” Where’s the sympathy for the father who was killed while his daughter sat in his lap?

Ventura Mayor Neal Andrews says “there is a limitation on what might be appropriate action” in cases like this. When a man is wandering in a public place being loud and disruptive, it is appropriate for police take him into custody — before he does something much worse.

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George Carney, San Gabriel

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To the editor: Could the senseless killing of Anthony Mele Jr. have been prevented? We will never know. Is a weaponized response the only intervention that is available? That is changing.

There is a program that is being rolled out across the U.S., Mental Health First Aid, that is designed to provide a corps of trained “first responder” mental health workers. The program is being underwritten by the Providence Health Care System, and I am among the 48 selected “train the trainer” students.

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We will fan out through Southern California to train and certify intervention specialists. Training sites will include police departments, schools, hospitals and many other places.

Decompressing an agitated person and staving off an assault is a task that people in my line of work perform often. Training others to serve their communities like we do will provide a valuable service.

David Eckhous, Long Beach

The writer is an occupational therapist.

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To the editor: Recent actions by law enforcement in Philadelphia and Ventura hit a new level of ineptitude.

In Philadelphia, police responded to a noncrime by arresting two black men purportedly loitering in a Starbucks. Contrast that overreaction with the nonresponse in Ventura to several 911 calls reporting a homeless man behaving erratically. Police there never initiated contact with the man, who is now accused of entering a restaurant and killing a patron dining with his family.

The police are supposed to serve and protect the public. In these two unique situations, they did neither.

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Marcia Goodman, Long Beach

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