Editor’s Note: this originally ran Aug. 24. It is republished here as part of our year-end coverage.
A Santa Monica College student is recovering from cuts to his face, head and throat after a violent fight with a homeless man at Tongva Park early Friday morning. The attack happened as a group of college students was heading home from a late night celebrating the end of their summer vacation. The victim will likely carry the scars for the rest of his life.
Hours after the incident, the sidewalk on 2nd Street across from City Hall was still stained with blood where a homeless man allegedly stabbed 20-year-old Miles O’Brien with a broken picture frame. It was about 3 a.m. and O’Brien and his friends, Oliver Konopek and Danech Kiya, had just called an Uber to head home when they say the man approached the group.
“We were all huddled in a circle and this guy started walking towards us,” Kiya recalled. “He looked fidgety and jumpy. He came up behind us and pushed us, saying, ‘This is my property, you have my stuff, you’re in my spot’ something like that, just screaming in our ears.”
O’Brien told the Daily Press he felt “exceptionally threatened.”
“I realized that just trying to avoid him and be non-confrontational wasn’t working and I had to defend myself, as he kept trying to mess with us,” he said.
“We had a cup of soda and he knocked it over,” Kiya said. “He pushed Miles and singled him out, and I don’t know what happened. (Miles) reacted and they just started fighting.”
The young men said the fight lasted only seconds. The friends quickly pulled O’Brien away from the attacker. The SMC’s student’s face was covered with blood. Once they pulled the two men apart, the victim realized the other man had slashed his face with a small, metal picture frame that had been configured into a makeshift weapon.
A nearby parking officer saw the fight and called the police, who responded quickly and arrested the man. Pictures from the scene show O’Brien carried off on a stretcher.
Santa Monica Police Department identified the suspect as 29-year-old Javon Patton who has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Police did not release any more details about Patton’s background or criminal history but told the Daily Press O’Brien threw the first punch.
The group admitted they had been drinking earlier in the evening and then stopped at McDonald’s on 2nd Street to grab dinner before heading to the park. The college students said they were sober by the time the fight broke out and didn’t believe it played a role in the assault.
By Friday afternoon, O’Brien was home from the hospital. The group was still shaken up.
O’Brien felt the homeless man was looking for a fight.
“It just happened to be us there, it could have been anyone else who encountered this guy,” he said.
The group was trying to move past the event with humor, showing the Daily Press a group chat where O’Brien himself made light of the situation, showing memes they made from their photos.
“Humor definitely helps out,” O’Brien said. “[It] lets you feel something else besides the approximate 10 stitches in your head.”
Asked if they’ll hang around Tongva anymore, the group was mixed. Kinya said the altercation showed him “how dangerous it can get,” while Konopek said there are bigger problems in the world.
O’Brien said although the encounter showed him how dangerous the park can be, time would tell if he hangs out there again.