Police say Santa Monica Pier melee started after vendor 'sexually battered' several women

Four people have been charged in connection with a brawl last month near Santa Monica Pier, which authorities now say started when a vendor began sexually battering several women.

The Santa Monica Police Department announced over the weekend that prosecutors had filed assault charges against four men, and sexual battery charges against one of them. Authorities are still seeking more information on the incident.

On the afternoon of June 29, police responded to a 911 call about several men fighting near the pier. It was also reported that one person had been stabbed, according to police.

Before officers arrived at the scene, a Santa Monica police drone confirmed there was an ongoing fight. Initially, police told The Times it was a “mutual combat situation” on the sand near Lifeguard Tower 14.

But police have since said that the brawl began when a vendor — whom authorities identified as 30-year-old Efigenio Tacuba — allegedly approached a group of beachgoers and “sexually battered several females.” After other people in the group confronted him, Tacuba appealed to other vendors for help. The other vendors then armed themselves with umbrella poles, belts and at least one knife.

In the course of the skirmish that followed, one person was stabbed and another broke an ankle. Both were transported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

At the time, police said in a social media post that five people were arrested. On Saturday, the department said four people had been charged. Three — Jorge Cruz Murcia, Samuel Manzanarez Hernandez and Oscar Samuel Hernandez — are facing two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon. The fourth, Tacuba, is facing those charges as well as three counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.

Under California law, the type of sexual battery charge Tacuba is facing is defined as touching “an intimate part of another person” against their will for the purpose of sexual arousal.

In their latest release, authorities said additional arrests were “likely to follow.” Anyone with information or video relating to the incident is encouraged to contact Det. Jacob Holloway by email, or call the on-duty watch commander at (310) 458-8427.

The incident came several weeks after two German tourists were stabbed and a third person injured in apparently unprovoked attacks near the Santa Monica Pier. In that case, in late May, a suspect was apprehended.

Three days before the multi-person melee, a Santa Monica man allegedly attacked three women at the beach, attempting to strangle a 17-year-old before assaulting and biting a woman who tried to come to her aid. He also allegedly dragged a 72-year-old woman into the ocean and pushed her underwater.

That man, Jawann Dwayne Garnett, 32, was charged with two counts of attempted murder and an array of other felonies.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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