A Santa Monica woman was punched by a homeless man this week at 2nd and Wilshire, but what hurt the woman more were the men at the scene who did nothing to help.
Kady Elliott, 32, was on a morning bike ride home after an Orange Theory fitness class when she saw a homeless man walking the crosswalk ahead of her. Hoping to politely pass him, she pedaled slowly around him, only to receive the hardest hit she’d received in her life.
“He had his arm down at first, then brought it down to his side and swung it, like pitching a baseball. He turned and hit me in my mouth,” she said. “I didn’t see it coming. It just stunned me. It didn’t knock me off my bike completely, I landed on my feet, straddling my bicycle. But my head flew back and I saw white for a minute.”
After hitting her, the man muttered, “Swerve at me again and see what happens, [expletive].”
In shock, Elliott was frozen with fear, unable to do or say anything to the man that hit her. While the adrenaline began to fade and pain rushed to her bleeding, busted lip, Elliott says the most upsetting experience were the men, eager to get to work, that saw the whole situation and did nothing.
“I was shaking and couldn’t do anything — get my phone, say something back, anything. So I stood there and some white men in suits didn’t react, didn’t call the cops or anything. It almost felt like it didn’t happen. I was looking around and the men that witnessed it didn’t react. It felt surreal. No one asked me if i was okay. That is something I keep hanging on to. To not even say, ‘Are you okay,’ it’s the saddest thing out of the entire situation.”
After the ordeal, she began to bike home, shaken and nursing a busted lip. She said two women chased her down to tell her they saw the whole thing and offered help while a Latino man, who was working, went up to her and told her he’d called the cops.
With the cops on the way, Elliot biked around the immediate area hoping to find the man. She found him in an alley before he ran away at the sound of sirens.
The police asked if she wanted to file a report, noting that if she pressed charges and they were able to locate the man, not much would change.
“They bring him in, put him on meds, and they release him,” Elliott says a cop told her. “[The homeless man] doesn’t have his meds when he’s back on the streets, and the same thing happens over and over. It wasn’t encouraging, but it was honest.”
Elliott eventually made it home, where she checked her NextDoor app to find messages of support and even messages of people who’d faced similar instances with the six foot tall, 30-ish-year-old, Caucasian homeless man.
While Elliot is hesitant to ride her bike without some form of protection again, she’s cognizant that a story like this can lead to negative, broad assumptions about the homeless.
She notes that this incident is a rare occurrence for her, saying she encounters homeless on a daily basis and is never violated or harassed.
“It’s a catch-22 because it’s so bad that this happened, but it adds to that stereotype because a homeless person did it. It makes people more frightened. That man could’ve easily overpowered me, yes, but the biggest thing in all of this is finding a solution to the problem. It’s not about homeless people being bad or something. It’s about helping them with mental illness and drug addiction. You can have all the protection and be aware, but it doesn’t solve the problem. I want to live in a world where no one has to be defensive 24/7.”
She added that when something like this happens to someone again, she wants to be assured that “someone’s on top of things,” noting that police seemed blasé about the situation and again addressing the men in suits, hurrying to work, that stood by and did nothing.
“It seems like we should be a neighborhood looking out for each other. I want to know our city leaders are doing something about this or that there’s resources or something. I felt really alone, and my neighbors and those few people offered support and that was it. I’m thankful for them.”