Last Tuesday, a group of transients was assaulted in broad daylight on Redwood Drive in downtown Redway. Accounts vary, but the incident seems to have taken place somewhere between Shop Smart and Redway Liquor & Deli.
One unidentified witness told KMUD News that the incident began after two men exited a green van, possibly with out-of-state plates, and began to attack people with some kind of metal pipe or baseball bat.
"One guy hit the other guy across the head with a bat, knocking him out and yelling ‘Get out of my town, you hippies. You're not wanted here.'"
After that, the group dispersed and the assailants chased them down the road while continuing to shout at and assault the slower victims who could not get away.
At least one person was reportedly taken to Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville for treatment of a possible head injury. The Humboldt County sheriff's office contacted that person at the hospital, but they said the victim was uncooperative. Despite multiple reports confirming that the alleged attack did in fact take place, the sheriff's office said that due to the circumstances involved they may be unable to identify a suspect or press charges.
"Without a cooperative victim willing to take the witness stand, cases are very difficult to prosecute," said Lt. Steve Knight. "If they don't step forward and give a report to law enforcement, we can't do much."
Lt. Knight urged members of the public to rely on law enforcement, rather than taking matters into their own hands.
"I know there's a lot of frustration in the community with the transient population. Our office has taken a fairly aggressive stance in trying to deal with it legally and compassionately and we try to assist where we can, but our resources are very limited," Knight said.
"This has been an issue for many years, and it seems to be getting worse," Knight added.
Dave Formosa, a 26-year resident of Southern Humboldt and owner of Redway Liquor & Deli, disagreed with the assumption that problems associated with the homeless community are getting worse. Moreover, he's seen this before.
"It comes up about once every ten years or so. There's always a few vigilantes," Formosa said. "But are we having a bigger problem this year? No. It's no worse than any year before."
"This area is very attractive to certain people, for a variety of reasons," he added. "I don't think that's going to change."
The homeless population tends to swell this time of year when people come to Southern Humboldt to attend festivals or look for harvest work in the marijuana industry, but many leave on their own once the rainy season begins. In the meanwhile, local sentiments of anger and resentment towards those perceived to be transients and outsiders might continue to grow.
"Everybody's on a hair trigger now," Formosa said. "It's gonna get worse, or more overpopulated, before it gets better. And I think that's where some of the tension comes from."