La Jolla Light Crime and Public-Safety News: Oct. 24


Snorkeling death at Cove prompts lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Diego claims lifeguards at La Jolla Cove can’t adequately watch or protect swimmers because The Cove’s unusual topography creates dangerous hidden areas, not visible from lifeguard towers.

The lawsuit was filed by Hamidreza Akbarzadegan, whose father died after a snorkeling accident in July 2017. It states the City needs more lifeguards, better located towers and warning signs in dangerous areas that are tough to see because of rock formations and other obstructions.

It goes on to state the existing deployment of towers and lifeguards gives swimmers, snorkelers and other users of The Cove a false sense of security by implying there is continuous surveillance of the entire area.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for funeral expenses and loss of financial support. Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn has scheduled a Nov. 8 hearing in the case.

Morteza Akbarzadegan was snorkeling at The Cove on a day when there were high waves that earlier had prompted lifeguards to clear people from the water, according to the lawsuit. When lifeguards deemed it safe, Akbarzadegan entered the water and began snorkeling. He went missing about 10 minutes later.

His son claims in the suit that he and his mother waved to lifeguards to get their attention and help, but the lifeguards couldn’t see them because of the area’s topography.

Two teens eventually brought Akbarzadegan to shore, where he got medical help from lifeguards and bystanders before being transported by ambulance to a hospital. He was diagnosed with anoxic brain injury, which occurs when the brain is denied oxygen for too long. He remained in a vegetative state for 10 months before dying in May 2018.

Lawyers for the City said in court documents the City isn’t liable for injuries caused by natural conditions of unimproved public property. They also said the City isn’t responsible for injuries caused by participation in a hazardous recreational activity.

However, the lawsuit states the City is to blame because City officials engaged in “willful misconduct” by not providing adequate lifeguard coverage and not aiding swimmers in trouble in a timely fashion, and that the City should post warning signs at The Cove in areas where lifeguards can’t see, or might struggle to see, from their towers.

In addition, it blames lifeguards for allowing bystanders to provide some of the medical help Akbarzadegan received, and for not having a properly functioning defibrillator that could have helped save him.

Lifeguards there are on duty every day of the year from 9 a.m. until sunset.

David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune

Car crashes into La Jolla Starbucks

A car narrowly missed striking a woman and her two children when it crashed into the Starbucks coffee shop at 1150 Prospect St. around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Nobody was injured in the crash, which apparently occurred when the driver’s foot slipped off the brake pedal onto the gas pedal, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Capt. Jeff Clyons. The Starbucks was evacuated after the crash so that a structural engineer could evaluate the building.

SANDAG releases homelessness report

A report from SANDAG’s Criminal Justice Research Division indicates the percent of arrestees who have experienced homelessness continued to increase in 2018, and that about three in four of arrestees who were ever homeless said they first became homeless in San Diego County. Other findings include:

Of the surveyed, the median age of those who experienced homelessness for the first time was age 26;

Male arrestees with a history of homelessness reported more incidents of being homeless than their female arrestee counterparts;

Males surveyed reported becoming homeless due to the loss of a job, while female arrestees were more likely attribute it to abuse or violence;

23 percent of arrestees who reported being homeless in the past year thought they would still be homeless a year from now; 58 percent said they’re homeless because they can’t afford housing; 42 percent said they’re homeless because they like living on the street;

Fewer than 1 in 5 of those who reported being homeless in the past 12 months stayed in a shelter. Reasons shared for not staying in a shelter included restrictions at the shelter, safety concerns, wait lists and inability to bring others;

Of those surveyed, homelessness was most often reported by arrestees positive for meth, those with a mental health diagnosis, and those not employed at the time of their arrest;

Arrestees with a history of homelessness were more likely to report a history of injecting drugs and overdosing, compared to arrestees who did not report a history of homelessness.

“The data clearly show us that an increasing number of individuals in our justice system have housing instability, which is often related to mental health issues and substance abuse,” said Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG criminal justice research director. “A multi-tiered and collaborative approach will be needed to address the concerns of our community related to homelessness and the underlying needs of these individuals.”

Police Blotter

Oct. 11

Assault with a deadly weapon (not firearm), 300 block Fern Glen, 2 p.m.

Oct. 15

Vehicle break-in, 1100 block Pearl St. 8 a.m.

Battery, 7300 block La Jolla Blvd. 11:58 p.m.

Oct. 16

Vandalism, Ivanhoe Avenue at Wall Street, 8:50 p.m.

Drunk in public, 5500 block La Jolla Blvd. 10:40 p.m.

Oct. 17

Petty theft, 600 block Pacific View Drive, 7:30 a.m.

Tamper with vehicle, 5300 block La Jolla Blvd. 2:30 p.m.

Stolen vehicle, 800 block Loring St. 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 18

Shoplifting, 700 block Turquoise St. 4:23 p.m.

Vandalism, Everts Street at Tourmaline Street, 7:28 p.m.

Oct. 21

Commercial burglary, 7500 block Eads Ave. 1:10 a.m.

Compiled by Ashley Mackin-Solomon from police and other local reports