A half hour before the Dec. 18 city council meeting, about 25 residents gathered at city hall to discuss concerns about the homeless, but due to delays on getting the door open, there was an earlier de facto meeting outside the council chambers for a smaller crowd of around 12.
At the de facto meeting, one individual shared her 78-year-old mother’s encounter with the homeless. A court reporter, she was at work on Dec. 10 at 3:05 p.m. while her mother was asked for money and water.
Her mother walked away from the door after saying no, but no was not enough for this individual. A friend who happened to be staying at the house was able to stop the man from getting inside through the solid crystal oak door’s window, despite having a prosthetic leg.
The homeless man bypassed the wood and broke through the glass with his fist, angling for the deadlock. Had the friend not been there, the woman said it might have been a different story as her father is 80 and the police were not coming.
On the line with a 911 dispatcher after pressing the panic alarm and another button, the dispatcher apologized to her mother and told her there were no units available. The woman said this was no fault of the dispatcher and that the dispatcher did her job and kept her mother calm, but other residents were furious.
“Make no mistake about it; that person was trying to break into their home,” William “Bill” Elliott said. “If he was willing to put his fist through a leaded glass window in a door, he was willing to put his fist through that 78-year-old lady’s face.”
The incident is not the whole of what upset the woman. After the homeless man gave up trying to break in, he washed the blood off his hands in their fountain and laid spread eagle in their lawn.
The 53 year homeowners were then visited by Lieutenant Travis Tibbetts three days later, after the woman made a call to the CBS news desk who was interested in the story.
“I shouldn’t have let him in my home, but I wanted to hear what he had to say,” she said in the de facto meeting.
She then outlined how Tibbetts, with a cavalier attitude, said that her mother was clear in the call and that mistakes were made. He apologized and said the dispatcher would not be fired, but that he would talk to her. The woman detailed that she was made very uncomfortable by Tibbetts' presence and was additionally concerned by him showing up after her call to the CBS news desk.
The homeless man was caught around three houses down and was charged with four felony accounts: felony burglary, attempted robbery, vandalism and resisting arrest. His day in court is Jan. 7, and the woman said she will follow it.
It took 10 minutes for the police to respond and she said that if not for her friend’s help something far worse could have happened that day.
She originally wished to remain anonymous fearing a potential push back, but she did manage to submit a card and went on the record with her mother as Brigitte and Paulette during public comment.
Her mother, Paulette, was told to contact city hall by the 911 dispatcher, and that is what she did.
“I thought ‘I will go to their meeting’ and she kept me calm, very calm, and she told me ‘sit down and relax’ and I told her ‘how can I relax when a man is practically in my house,’” her mother said to council during the meeting.
Mayor Lloyd Johnson and city manager Chris Freeland both apologized for the incident, but the latter’s full response was considered an insult by many residents.
Freeland celebrated that the man was caught as one less criminal off the streets, but neglected to mention anything about response time or the lack of police officers - only six to seven are on patrol at a time.
He also encouraged people to report if they see anything, but this comment infuriated residents who have reported things and not had anyone show up for 10 minutes to an hour.
This includes a report of a fire that took 50 minutes to get a response from the West Covina Fire Department, losing three homes and a garage in the process. They said they had it under control and the county was coming to deal with it, according to the residents.
Further comments by Freeland led Sue Oldham Augino to comment right after he finished.
“He’s our problem,” she said firmly after Freeland concluded. In a further Facebook post, she called Freeland’s report, which is usually a response to public comments, nonsense.
“Our city manager should give his so called report prior to the public comment time and not be allowed to spew nonsense without being challenged,” she wrote on the West Covina “Residents Take Our Neighborhoods Back” public Facebook group. “He should NOT be able to give his report after the public session. He blows complete nonsense. He should have to open the meeting with his report.”
At the meeting, Augino and fellow residents Elliott and Jefferson “JD” DeRoux shared negative sentiments about Andrea Moreno’s reading of Hilda Solis' statement.
Their general consensus was roughly that Solis' statement went nowhere and sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Aside from the statement, one 30 year resident and representative for the non criminal homeless said one gang is charging $20 for protection to homeless. The resident added that one homeless individual they spoke with had refused to pay and had their tent slit.
The police also took a long time to address that issue, but the speaker, like others, admits there are not enough police officers.
The only announcement at the meeting regarding the homeless was that a new partnership was formed with Pasadena’s Union Station Homeless Services. This will create a six month pilot program and add a case worker to the two officer HOPE team.