Woman with knife disrupts L.A. mayoral campaign launch focused on homelessness

One of the first in-person events in the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral election centered on the issue likely to animate the entire race: homelessness.

It ended with a homeless woman being arrested Monday after she pulled a knife a few feet from City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

Buscaino had trekked from his harbor area district to the Venice boardwalk, where he spoke starting at 7:15 a.m. about how tents on sidewalks, in parks and beaches were inhumane and should be banned more forcefully. He spoke for 10 minutes as supporters — fed up with the state of homelessness in this community — held signs and cheered him on.

After speaking, Buscaino began shaking hands with the roughly 75 to 100 constituents who came out to listen when Venice resident Nico Ruderman caught sight of an unhoused woman standing behind Buscaino holding a knife.

“She said, ‘I’m gonna start killing people,’ and I jumped forward and grabbed Joe,” Ruderman said.

That’s when two private security officers pulled their guns and grabbed Buscaino and hustled him to a black SUV nearby. Police officers quickly detained the woman as a crowd looked on, filming with their cellphones. A roughly six-inch blade dropped to the sand as the woman yelled that she had the knife for protection and to cut fruit.

A woman was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon during Councilman Joe Buscaino’s mayoral campaign launch Monday.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Ruderman and other people at the scene gave witness statements to officers. Capt. Stacy Spell, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department, said the suspect was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. The LAPD didn’t identify her but several people at the event said the woman went by the name of Angel and lived on the boardwalk.

During the arrest, an LAPD captain was cut, Spell said. “He is stable and receiving medical treatment,” she added.

Since entering the race, Buscaino has railed about what he considers the ineffectiveness of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county agency that coordinates the region’s response to homelessness. He called for the money being spent by the city to be diverted to other homelessness responses.

Steps from the border with Santa Monica, which has kept homeless people from camping on its beach or boardwalk, the former LAPD officer noted how no tents lined the beach looking north.

“Behind me in Santa Monica is common sense,” Buscaino said. “Here in Venice is nonsense.”

Protesters also came out to voice their discontent with the tone and tenor of Buscaino’s campaign. They set up a table on the boardwalk to hand out food and hot coffee to people sleeping nearby.

“This is a hateful rally in front of people struggling to survive,” said Jane Nguyen, a member of the homeless outreach and advocacy group Ktown for All.

Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

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