A transient has been arrested after attempting to assault a female retail employee at a local store and subsequently attacking an elderly woman on the street. 

The suspect was arrested Friday afternoon for assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse in a situation that is reminding residents of the tragic murder of Brianna Kupfer by a homeless man last week. 

In the Santa Monica case, the suspect entered the Santa Monica Music Center on the 1900 block of Santa Monica Blvd. without a mask and a female employee went behind the counter to retrieve a mask for him. At that point, he followed her, yelled sexually inappropriate comments and attempted to grab her. 

“He was trying to attack her,” said Councilwoman Lana Negrete who owns and works at the store. “So we had to get a music stand and use it to physically try to push him out while he was swinging.”

SMPD responded to the store but the suspect had left the property by the time officers arrived. However, at about the same time, officers received a call for a suspect with a similar description attacking an elderly woman at 20th and Arizona. 

“A homeless male threw an unknown liquid at an 83-year-old female who was standing on the corner,” said Lt. Rudy Flores. “When the victim asked the suspect what he was doing the suspect kicked the victim knocking her down onto the street.”

According to Flores, three witnesses saw the assault and detained Ward until officers arrived. The elderly woman complained of soreness to her hip/back and also said she struck the back of her head on the ground when she fell. She was taken to a medical facility by family. The suspect provided a name upon his arrest but SMPD said they had not yet verified his identity.

Negrete said the incident was frighteningly similar to the tragic murder of Brianna Kupfer who was killed while working alone in a Los Angeles furniture store last week.

“It’s just the issue of what’s going on with mental health beds and all of that stuff and we think a lot of times that we’re just dealing with a woman who sits in front of our store or the guy who throws urine at our window or I actually just got into a conflict yesterday because they’re mad that we asked people to sanitize their hands and wear masks and somebody threw feces at us. You know, we’re constantly dealing with stuff like that but you never know now if it’s going to turn into being bludgeoned to death or something.”

Kupfer was killed on Jan. 13 when transient Shawn Laval Smith entered a furniture store in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue where Kupfer was working alone. He is accused of fatally stabbing her and fleeing the scene. Smith was arrested on Wednesday in Pasadena and has been charged with murder. 

Negrete said she has been frustrated by a lack of tools to keep homeless people from repeatedly harassing individuals or vandalizing property and she’s concerned that without additional local mental health facilities, escalations may continue resulting in something even more disturbing than Friday’s assault. 

She said businesses on her block have had three separate incidents in the past week involving a mentally ill homeless person. 

“I don’t know what it is, it’s just that since December, we’ve had a heightened experience with mentally ill people that are aggressive, throwing stuff at our windows or coming in and slamming the door, throwing something on the floor, that type of stuff,” she said. “It’s gotten scary and scary just in light of what happened with the young girl Brianna.”

She said while some private organizations have discussed long-term strategies to try to prevent people from reaching the streets, she wants to see more local agencies step up with proposals to cover the kind of individuals who are unwilling or unable to access existing housing programs. 

Negrete’s business has been repeatedly robbed in recent years.

“What are we doing about the problem at hand, literally the people who are sitting outside my store are not going to go into housing. That’s not for them. I gotta have something in between that to then get them eligible to have a roof over their head.”

Correction: Councilwoman Negrete called 9-1-1 while an employee wielded a music stand against the suspect.