Jamie Paige, Special to the Daily Press

When you meet Tariq “T” Ali, you can’t help but feel safe. It may be why he chose the profession of protecting others—a career that almost cost him his life.

“T” stands six-foot-five, but it’s not his towering height that catches your attention; it’s his genuine warmth and infectious smile.

“T” moved to L.A.’s Westside from the Washington, D.C. area more than 20 years ago to attend Santa Monica College (SMC). While attending classes, he worked as a student police officer on campus. “It was my first introduction to police and security,” says “T”. “I loved working with the Santa Monica Police Department.”

From SMC, “T” transferred to UCLA, where he participated in Athletes in Action and majored in African American Studies. That is when he got his second job in security. “I started working in Hollywood nightclubs. “I also worked at Hollywood influencer events and had some high-profile clients including at one point President Barack Obama [before he was elected as president].”

It wasn’t until “T” started working for the Arbor Collective in Venice, a skateboard/snowboard/apparel store in business for 24 years, that he said he landed his “dream job and star client.” He explains: “It’s like working with your family. Having Bob [Carlson] as a boss and knowing that I am working there because he cares about all of his staff is a great position to be in.”

Security, as “T” describes it, is all about being the protector or first responder. So, being steadfast and vigilant is a big part of the job.

In the last two years, however, “T” says he began to see a difference on the streets. “I’ve seen the change in the homeless. I have had to take videos of so many incidents that would disturb people.”

“T” says his concerns in protecting the Arbor Collective “family” are partly heightened because the parking lot is adjacent to an elementary school. “It’s mind-blowing when I’ m working security to see the number of addicts who indulge in drugs and drinking. They are out of their minds [doing that] next to a school, next to kids.”

June 3 Attack

T’s world forever changed on June 3. It’s the day he was brutally attacked— a day he says he thought his life could have ended.

At 3:45 p.m., he had just come off his break when he saw a homeless person who he says is well-known for panhandling and sometimes threatening people in the area, drinking from a large bottle of hard liquor.

“He was heavily intoxicated. I felt the energy this time had changed. There was something off.” He asked the man to move on, but instead of leaving, the man started moving towards him. When that happened, “T” says he tried to spray mace at the man, but the wind ended up blowing the mace back in his own face.

“My eyes were burning, and it was hard to see. But I knew I still needed to defend myself.” T said he tried to hit him, but while the events were taking place — the man took a broken bottle and stabbed him multiple times.

A police report shows that “T” had been stabbed in the head, torso and wrist with the broken bottle. “I just kept seeing blood coming out from all over,” “T” says. He felt lightheaded and knew he needed help. “I asked someone to please call 911.”

“T” says that as he waited for help to arrive, he continued to see blood pouring from his body. “I thought maybe I was going to die. I wanted to survive; I didn’t know how I was going to make it out okay.”

“T” was in and out of the hospital for many days after the attack. An infection in his hand didn’t heal correctly. “They kept trying to treat it, but eventually they had to remove my finger.”

A Push For Change

“T” says he is speaking up about what happened to him because he doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else. “I have to stand up and say, look, we have a problem that we need to address. If I don’t, and there is another victim of a violent crime, I wouldn’t be able to bear it. “

What may be worse than the attack, he says, is that homeless advocacy groups have targeted him and the Arbor community. “The pushback from others is painful. They are ignoring the hardworking people who call this home. They are ignoring the fact that individuals like myself are victims of violence.”

“T” also says that when he heard L.A. Councilmember Mike Bonin dismiss his attack as unimportant , it’s like reliving that day all over again. “I almost had a near-death experience. I felt like I was going to die that day, but [when I talk about] the pain and trauma I feel—when I know what happened to me and other victims—it falls on deaf ears. It’s equal to or sometimes greater than the pain I felt that day.”

“T” acknowledges that Councilmember Bonin talks about being homeless himself. “He came from the bottom up to become a councilman. That’s great. But when he’s only advocating for the homeless people, I don’t understand that.”

“T” says he can see that a divide is widening between homeless advocates and the rest of the community but feels that this split must end. “What we need is to get together and find a solution that works for everyone. When will all this end? When is enough enough?”

His greatest fear is that the next victim will be a child, and there will be no turning back when that happens. “If we don’t stop this now [and the next victim is] someone’s child, I can’t live with that. I don’t know who could.”

“T” knows there is a long road to recovery. But it helps to know that he has the support of people like Arbor Collective owner Bob Carlson and those who have stepped up and helped with things like his ongoing medical expenses.

“When I moved here twenty years ago, this was why. People like Bob and the Arbor community have been there for me during this journey. I can’t thank them enough.”

A go fund me page to help with “T” medical expenses has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-tariq-t-ali.

Published in partnership with the Venice Current