When Yule Caise bought his son a little league baseball bat several years ago, he had no idea that he would one day be swinging it at a potential home invader.
But on July 7, when an unhoused individual charged towards his apartment door, Caise was very glad to have the bat in his possession.
The incident began around 4:30 p.m. when Caise heard two unhoused individuals rummaging through the trash in the alley behind his building.
This is not an uncommon occurrence, but Caise said that the loud noises being made and indiscriminate throwing of items put him on edge.
He soon heard someone coming up his stairs and rushed to his door to see who was approaching.
“I look out the peephole and I see the individual that I saw in the alley,” said Caise. “This guy is really big and I see him right at my doorstep. I can’t quite make out what he’s doing, but he’s not selling girl scout cookies.”
Caise bellowed loudly at the individual from behind the door telling him to leave and threatening to call the police, after which point the man disappeared from sight.
The family stores several possessions on their landing and Caise wanted to see if anything had been taken. He said he was also worried about the three children inside—his two teenage sons and a friend who was staying with them—and wanted to ensure the area was safe.
This is what led Caise to fetch the little league bat and cautiously open his door.
“All of a sudden this face pops up from the stairs kind of like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and I saw he looked like he was high. He caught me off guard because I didn’t expect him to be on the stairs,” said Caise.
“As soon as he came toward the open door I hit him with the bat and clipped him pretty good. He then started cursing at me and calling me the N-word and everything.”
Caise rushed inside and slammed the door, but the bolt was stuck. He called out for help and his son came and helped push it shut, while Caise called 911. The individual remained aggravated outside the building and started throwing things at the apartment, including a bottle that smashed through Caise’s window.
The first SMPD officer arrived on scene within two minutes of the call, according to Sergeant Erika Aklufi.
The man and the other unhoused individual accompanying him were apprehended by the police while they were walking away with a canopy tent taken from Caise’s landing.
The suspect was booked with misdemeanors for petty theft and vandalism as well as a felony charge for attempted residential burglary.
The DA refused to file the felony and the case has been passed to the City Attorney, who could file the misdemeanors and potentially a trespassing charge, according to Aklufi.
The suspect was released on July 10 and will be called into court once the City Attorney files charges.
No one inside the apartment was harmed, but the trauma of the incident and the potential fear of retaliation lingers. For Caise, a black man with two teenage boys, the racial slurs and police interactions remain on his mind.
“I was honestly nervous about this. In a different environment I’m keenly aware that things could not go my way and I’m here in an apartment with three boys of color. As an African American, in general, Santa Monica is better than most places,” said Caise. “The thing that was totally ironic as I was getting hurled the N-word, is that the other person who had been with him was Black.”
In this incident, Caise said the police were very helpful and responded to the call with impressive speed.
Violent crime is not currently on the rise in Santa Monica. In the first quarter of 2021, both robberies and aggravated assaults were down from Q1 of 2019 and 2020, according to data provided by SMPD.
Homelessness, however, is increasing all across LA County, including in Santa Monica.
“It is really surprising how much it (homelessness) has changed,” said Caise. “When I walk down Wilshire now it smells like urine in certain places and I see people living on the street,” said Caise. “I don’t want this to change how I feel in terms of being a compassionate individual, but this is different; the encounters are different, and it’s a different kind of desperation.”