LOCAL SPIN: Uglier Still
Analyzing the nastiest detail of a brutal Salinas beating.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
He was walking away.
That’s the thing people don’t yet realize because nobody has yet put it out there. So here it is, in all its grim and ugly reality: Police say the homeless man nearly beaten to death in October for loitering outside an Oldtown Salinas restaurant was walking away from the place and pleading not to be hit when the first blow came.
The information comes from the search warrant affidavit filed by Salinas police on Oct. 30 and made public by the Clerk of the Superior Court on Tuesday. In two pages, it paints a picture of crushing brutality, witnessed by at least two restaurant patrons who say they tried to assist the injured man by taking him to a safe area, but who ultimately didn’t call the police or an ambulance. They took him to this unspecified safe area and walked away; about 10 days later, perhaps prodded by their consciences, they called the police.
If they saw it, maybe they’re not the only ones who did. Thursday night at 10pm – the time the alleged attack occurred on Oct. 11 – isn’t a hopping time for that stretch of Oldtown. It happened on the block leading up to the National Steinbeck Center, the one that includes the Maya Cinemas and XL Grindhouse, the restaurant in question. But 10pm is also the restaurant’s closing time on a weeknight, and it was near the starting time for six films playing a few doors down at the Maya. Maybe someone else saw something or heard something.
If so, if they want to keep considering themselves part of the human race, they need to step forward and tell the police.
“WHERE IS THE COMMUNITY ON THIS? WHERE IS THE EMPATHY?”
According to the affidavit, the alleged victim, a 55-year-old man many Oldtown merchants refer to as “Orbits” from his habit of orbiting the blocks of downtown – the Weekly’s not using his real name – was found Oct. 13 by a concerned citizen. The man’s eyes had been blackened and he was lethargic.
He told police he thought the men who attacked him were Robert and James DeLeon, brothers and co-owners of the Grindhouse. He told police they threatened to “beat his ass” unless he left. One of them, identified in the affidavit as James DeLeon, was holding a silver baseball bat.
“Please no, not the baseball bat,” Orbits said as he tried to walk away. One of the suspects allegedly struck him in the knee with the bat, and when Orbits fell to the ground, he was either kicked in the head or bludgeoned with the bat. The witnesses who called the police 10 days later describe a free-for-all, with one brother standing lookout while the other was “pummelling, slugging and kicking” Orbits.
Two days later, when someone who cared called the police, paramedics took him to Natividad Medical Center, where a scan showed he had a skull fracture and bleeding of the brain. He was taken to a Bay Area hospital, placed in critical condition and put on a respirator. He was in a coma for some time, but regained consciousness and remains hospitalized.
Both brothers told the officer who first interviewed them Oct. 13 they had no issues with the homeless man sleeping outside the restaurant. And strangely enough, some Oldtown regulars say the brothers sometimes gave him food, or something to drink, and maybe even gave him clean clothes on one occasion. Other merchants have described Orbits as a completely harmless and relaxed presence.
But the brothers also told police they didn’t have a video surveillance system, which turned out not to be true, according to the affidavit. Footage from it, in fact, had been used by police in a child-molestation case. (Note: the molestation case had nothing to do with either brother.) That system was among the items seized and booked into evidence.
Oldtown now sits under a bizarre haze. At a meeting of the Oldtown Salinas Association, which runs the special tax-assessment district, one attendee said there was a sense the beating “brought the homeless problem to a head. Many seem to think it happened because of the homeless man, that it’s his fault.
“How can I best describe it?” she wondered. “It felt twisted. There seemed to be no concern for the man. Where is the community on this? Where is the empathy?”
Robert and James DeLeon were arrested Nov. 28 and charged with attempted murder. Robert faces an enhancement of using a weapon and inflicting great bodily injury, while James also faces an assault charge. Both remain in Monterey County jail, Robert on $800,000 bail and James on $530,000.
As for where the community is on this? Some of them will be at Grindhouse on Saturday night, because according to the joint’s Facebook page, Saturday night is fight night. As one admirer put it before the comment was scrubbed from the page, “Is it a bum fight?”
MARY DUAN is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at twitter.com/maryrduan