38 Years ago today: February 22, 1974 – the Day Ocean Beach Became an Armed Police State

by on February 22, 2010 · 29 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Popular

Police Swat Team on Abbott Street, 1974.

Originally posted February 22, 2009

OCEAN BEACH, CA.  Exactly 36  38 years ago today, on February 22, 1974 – all hell broke loose in Ocean Beach – and for many of the seventies generation, this day will always live on in their memory as a day of infamy – the day the world came crashing down on our little seaside community.  It was the day that Pete Mahone, a politicized ex-convict and member of OB’s anti-Vietnam war community, tried to commit suicide by cop.  It was also the breaking point in police-community relations, relations that had been simmering for years.

San Diego police officers subdue and arrest Peter Mahone in the front of his Abbott Street cottage, Feb. 22, 1974.

On this day, more than a third of a century ago, Pete calmly walked up to San Diego police officer William Ritter who was sitting in his car while parked in the OB Pier parking lot, pulled out a hand gun and opened fire once through the window in the direction of the officer.  A soon as he had made  his shot, Pete calmly walked back to his little beach shack along Abbot Street and waited. He knew what was to come.

Fortunately and miraculously, the officer -at the moment the gun went off – had turned his head and had opened his mouth. The bullet entered his mouth, chipped a tooth and exited through the back of his neck.  Ending up only with a flesh wound, Officer Ritter was well on his way to recovery a month later.

As he waited in his little cottage on the 2000 block of Abbott,  Peter Mahone anticipated that the cops would come rushing through his door.  Over the course of the next few hours, police officers did that, but much, much more.

On February 22nd, 1974, Ocean Beach became an armed police state.

Once the call had gone out that an officer was down in Ocean Beach, things exploded. Here’s how the OB Rag reported it, in an article entitled, “OB UNDER SIEGE”:

… police units from all over San Diego converged on Ocean Beach. Suddenly the community was under siege. A com­mand post was set up at Robb Field, a helicopter from the county Sheriff’s department was called in, and uniformed and plain-clothes police officers be­gan detaining and questioning people.

Incidents of violence have not been uncommon, in Ocean Beach. But rarely has a police officer been a victim. This time, according to many of the literally hundreds of people who ex­perienced and observed the events of the day, the cops rushing into Ocean Beach were “out for blood.”

Many violent acts took place last Friday. Folks in the neighborhood of Abbott and Saratoga woke up to pistols being pointed at their heads by police officers. Many residents were held indiscriminately at gunpoint as they were frisked and forced to identify themselves. Four persons who watched the police actions were arrested and one of them was later beaten by police. …

In one incident, officers attempted to enter a residence at 2014-1/2 Abbott Street. At some point shots were fired. Detective Michael De Bruler was injured. The Abbott Street residence was surrounded by police. According to neighbors and witnesses, police then opened fire without warning to whatever occupants might have been inside and without giving a chance for anyone to surrender.

Many volleys of shots were fired and tear gas was thrown into the house. One suspect, Peter Mahone, emerged from the house with his hands raised. He was hit by a plainclothes officer in the back of the head with the butt of a gun which allegedly dis­charged at that time. Mahone apparently suffered one wound in the shooting. He was removed from the scene by police.

(For the entire article “OB UNDER SIEGE”, go here.)

Throughout the take-over of Ocean Beach by police that day, numerous people had been harassed and arrested, as the Rag recounted. All 4 arrests of bystanders were thrown-out. Two of those arrested had been activists and friends of Peter Mahone.

Peter Mahone somehow survived. Officer Ritter survived. Detective De Bruler, wounded by friendly fire, survived.  But did the community?  The history of this day is an important day in OB’s history, because it brought the community together, the tensions between police and the community came to a head – and led to their resolution months later, as importantly, this day ignited a community-wide campaign for police reform.

Peter Mahone

Drawing of Peter Mahone by Diana Tuminia, Ocean Beach 1974.

Peter Mahone was charged with 5 counts of attempted murder, 5 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a gun while on parole, and his bail was set at $200,000 – which 35 years ago, was a lot of money.  After the shoot-out and the turmoil that followed, Peter became somewhat of a cause celebre within the activist community.

While no one condoned what he did, friends and fellow activists strove to understand what made him do it.  A Defense Committee was set up immediately, which aided him in obtaining legal representation and covering some of his legal costs.

Older than most of the other OB anti-war and community activists, Peter had been institutionalized for much of his life, for petty crimes and burglaries.  During his later days in prison, he had become politicized – like many inmates had during the heady days of the late sixties and early seventies. He got out of prison in the early 1970s and on parole. He had enrolled in a college program at San Diego State for ex-cons.  At State, he met radical professor Peter Bohmer and other activists – many of whom lived in OB, as OB provided a veritable safe haven for radical, anti-war and hippie ways and politics . So Mahone moved to the beach and became active in the movement to stop the Vietnam war.

In the Spring of 1972, during a particuarly horrible intensification of the war by President Nixon, the anti-war movement all over the country intensified its efforts to bring the military conflict to an end with more and more militant tactics.  Anti-war demonstrators had blocked traffic on I-5 in downtown San Diego. Activists rallied and burned trash cans along Newport Avenue. Protests occurred across the country.

Up in North County, right outside Del Mar, an anti-war rally was held.  Protesters had built a pile of timber on the railroad tracks that run along the Pacific Ocean and lit it in an effort to block a train carrying war munitions to San Diego to be shipped to Viet Nam.  Police arrived in force, and arrested a number of people, including Peter Mahone, and his mentor Professor Peter Bohmer, along with another well-known OB community activist. In all, 3 Ocean Beach residents were arrested at this protest, and included in what was later called “the Del Mar 4”.

Months later, during the preparation for the defense of the Del Mar 4, it was discovered that police informants had infiltrated the defense team – a clear violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. When lawyers for the defendants tried to have the charges thrown out due to this usurpation of civility, the judge ruled against the activists.

Peter Mahone never quite got over this legal defeat.  This arrest brought him other police harassment back in OB. In time, he started taking hard drugs and becoming very paranoid and delusional.  Fellow activists who were his roommates became uneasy with his behavior, and watched him become unstable.

About a month before the February shoot-out, his roommates had asked him to leave. They couldn’t handle his paranoid and strangeness. One roommate had come home to find the telephone busted up and in the trash. Another day, a paper-cutter had been destroyed, and Peter saved the handle to protect himself.

Mahone finally went to trial and was convicted of some of the charges. A number of friends had testified at his trial to his instability leading up to the shooting. Nevertheless, he ended up back in prison for some ten or so years. Out of prison once again, he lived in the Bay Area, where he came into contact with former OBceans living in that area. It is believed that Peter died in 1993.

So ended the Peter Mahone saga. But the community of Ocean Beach was changed forever by what he did on February 22, 1974.  More to come in the next installment in this OB History Lesson.

LEARN MORE ABOUT POLICE-OB RELATIONS IN THE 1970’S

Ocean Beach in the 1970s – How an armed police camp led to reforms in police practices

Ocean Beach and the Police in the mid-1970s: demand grows for that strange and foreign concept of civilian review

OB vs. Police in the 1970s

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dog Beach Dude February 22, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Those were heady times for sure. We wanted that war to end so badly that by ’74 the lines had been drawn. It became us against them, kids against authority, burning your draft card, sit-ins and so on. Cops back then shot 1st and read you your rights later.

I don’t think of Peter Mahone as any kind of hero though, but I can see how the anti-establishment OBceans had had enough. Between San Diego cops, U.S. politics as usual…Nixon, the war and what seemed like all of us suffering through 2 terms of having Ronald Reagan as our Governor something had to give.

I have a good friend who’s an SD cop and his current beat is PB & MB. To hear him tell it, it’s a war zone over there at night with all of the bars, fights, robberies, hit & runs and so-on. Sounds like these days things are far worse in those neighborhoods than it is here in OB.

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avatar Tim September 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm

no one in America had a draft card to burn in 1974. The draft ended in 1971. Guys who claim all this sort of anti-war crap during Vietnam, Nixon, all that during the early 70’s; most of these folks were probably in jr hi and watched it all on TV, but relived it years later!

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 1, 2010 at 11:02 pm

No, Tim, the draft did not end until 1973. Not sure where you’re going there, dude. The movements of the sixties and seventies did exist. And most of the people involved in them are still around.

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avatar Tim September 2, 2010 at 8:49 am

Dude, no one was drafted after 71, dude, so it effectively ended. I know they existed, and I know the people are still around, but some the Government stopped drafting in 71, the last guy who was drafted was in November of 1971. Louis Hershey kept it in place, but it was essentially ended! Perhaps you are confusing the draft with Watergate, which was in 1974. Or, perhaps you are confusing the anti-war demonstrations of the 70’s with Cambodia incursion and Kent State. However, the anti-draft “hell no, we won’t go” ended in 71, and probably early in 71, as the draft was no longer needed, since combat operations ended in 71!

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avatar OB Joe February 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Wow, I remember that day very well. I awoke to the roar of a helicopter skimming the rooftops. I run outside and see hundreds of people crowding around a house down the block on Abbott. Then I see dozens of cops shooting into that house, and then realize that’s where Mahone lived.

Yeah, the cops took over OB that day, cordoning off the main streets in and out of OB. Arresting people a mile from the incident. It was crazy. I’m so glad that no one died. Even though people knew Mahone does not mean that they supported what he did. It was commonly known that he was unstable. Now we call it ‘SBC” – suicide by cop – but back then we didn’t have a name for it.

Reforms were squeezed out of the cops, so i am waiting for Gromlie’s next article.

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avatar yippiereborn February 22, 2009 at 10:52 pm

I think there’s a lot to learn from the impartiality and concern for someone’s well being that the OB Defense Fund showed in defending Mahone. It seems pretty clear that although his actions were counter productive to the movement and anti-war activists did not endorse gun violence, this was a man fed up with being a victim of the system. there are plenty of people out there who could use that kind of support during these trying times, among them formerly incarcerated individuals.

I agree with OB Joe – Im interested in learning more about the aftermath of this event both in OB and in the SDPD.

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avatar Molly February 23, 2009 at 12:12 am

Dog Beach Dude – I think one important diff between those other beach communities and OB is that there is more of a real community in Ocean Beach.

there is no real community left in Mission Beach. It’s filled with vacation rentals, time-shares and summer homes.

And PB? There’s real neighborhood sections but it’s been turned over to a party town for college kids.

Although don’t forget, OB has its War Zone. The 5000 block of Long Branch used to be party central.

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avatar Larry OB February 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

Just a minor point about the caption in the 2nd photo. I’m guessing he wasn’t subdued by the suits. Maybe he’s been cuffed and lying on the ground for a while. The 3rd suit in background doesn’t look too excited.

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avatar Dickie February 23, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Wow, seeing those images and reading Frank’s article about that day (35 years ago!!!) sure unleasehed a whole bunch of thoughts and feelings. Here’s a few:
I lived in OB for 7 years in the ‘70s, proudly worked on the original OB Rag for a couple years. At the time of this incident I lived in Red House on the deadend block of Cape May, a long-time home for groups of activists and their friends. Mine was the back bedroom and was probably 100-150 feet across the backyards from Peter’s home. Waking up to the sound of the helicopter and by far the longest volley of shooting I had ever experienced live was one of the scariest moments of my life. When I went outside and realized the extent of the police assault on the community I was more scared yet. And when I learned of what had in fact happened I was mainly just sad . . . a brother was lost to the community which had tried to nurture him. His desire to live a political life caused him to be a target and take serious blows leading to this desperate act . . .
I knew Peter M. pretty well and loved him in many ways. A complex guy with an angry and alienated edge, yet a man of great commitment and the sweetest and most generous and loyal heart. I visited him several times in San Quentin after his conviction and was one one of the “former OBceans living in the [Bay Area]” who was in contact him after his release from prison. I am happy to say that he finally did realize his original goal and intention of being an activist out among the community where he lived. During the last few years of his life Peter was a frequent sight on the UC Berkeley campus and in the south campus area . . . with his grey hair and head band, pile of petitions and flyers for all of the current programs and demonstrations, covered in political buttons, smilingly engaging as many people as he could on campus and on the streeet. It is very sad to think that one ill-considered and mistaken act could take him away from his life the way it did . . . I’ll leave it for Frank to write more deepley about the community and political developments that followed the shooting. I would like to remind people that Peter, for all his difficulties, was a decent human being who wanted to do good and better . . . and was caught up in the way of forces that pushed him to the edge.
Some memories of the police in OB my first year there: cops out on regular patrol often two in a car wearing motorcycle crash helmets and high boots. Many would, any time they got out of the car, carry long riot batons rather than the shorter standard “billy” clubs . . .
Several times being FI’d (field interrogated) by two cops while selling the OB Rag in front of the old Strand or the old Mayfair market on Sunset Cliffs “[Who are you and what are you doing here?]” Duh, I’m Dickie and I am selling the OB Rag . . . why do you want to know. “[We like to keep track of you people]” One cop once asked me “How many state lines I crossed to come to SD and cause trouble?”
Being followed down a narrow alley (I believe between Muir and Voltaire, or between Muir and Long Branch) by a SDPD car where I there was no room to let him by . . . I had to speed up to keep him from dinging me until I could find a place to step aside . . . as he went by he said nothing but turned and gave me a scary smile . . .
Cops busting up a party on Abbot and Saratoga that had moved into the street with a show of force that rivaled the Feb. 22 attack . . . I think there was an OB Rag cover photo of that police attack tht day . . . an overkill, intimidating that characterized a lot of the police attitude and behavior in OB in those days.
And the events surrounding Peter’s legal defeat where police informants had infiltrated the defense team and electronically eavesdropped on defense meetings really deserve a closer look. One police “Red Squad” member after another admitting in open court to spying on the defense deliberations and yet the judge ruling that no one’s rights had been infringed. Infuriating to say the least.
And in spite of all the intimidation and efforts to undermine the growing community in OB, here we are 35 years later and the spirit and tradition of OB community and acitvism are still alive. Even for me now transplanted to the far reaches of NE California.
. . . and Peter Mahone withal is a part of that spirit and tradition. . .
. . . and GO!! OB Rag blog . . . you are too

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avatar Mark Rafferty February 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

“I would like to remind people that Peter, for all his difficulties, was a decent human being who wanted to do good and better . . . and was caught up in the way of forces that pushed him to the edge.”

That sounds exactly what a supporter would say of Joseph Stack, the coward who flew his plane into the IRS building a few days ago. His daughter even labeled him a “hero”. You might consider Mahone a decent human being, but I don’t; someone who shoots an innocent person in the face without reason, and someone who flies a plane into a building filled with innocent people isn’t decent, let alone human.

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avatar Amahone. September 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I am the grand daughter of Peter Mahone and I know I was not alive in the 70’s obviousley , but what I do know of my “grandfather” is that he was a very terrible man. He abused alchohal and drugs and not only did he do that he beat his wife and kids. I am so happy that my father turned out WAY better than his father Peter Mahone. It is disgusting to see so many people putting Peter mahone on a pedastal. He was a troubled man who led a very empty , meaningless life after those days. The days of his so called “glory” .

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Dickie, thanks so much for the very brilliant and effusive account of Peter Mahone’s later life. I believe I saw him once up in the Bay Area after he got out of prison for the last time.

Your account of the April 21, 1974 Abbott Street Riot is definitely an anticipatory rendition of some of the content of my next part deux.

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avatar JEC February 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

February 22, 1974 was my initiation into community politics – and the wake up call that the police in San Diego were reckless and dangerous.
I went to work as a County Social Worker just two weeks before. I was new to OB, moved there from LA, for the surf mainly. But that morning, as I tried to go to work I was block; the police had closed off OB, threw up a wall around the entire community, no one could go in or out. I went back home, called my office and then hopped on my bike to check out what was up. I lived on Brighton near Bacon in those days. As I rode down Bacon I saw police officers on Cape May demanding to enter homes to search for the suspect. A brief pause – three surfers witnessed Peter shooting the officer in his car; one stay with the officer, one went to call for help, one followed Peter. Since Peter made no attempt to hide, finding him was easy. As soon as the police arrived they knew where he was.

It took but a few minutes to come across the scene at Abbot and Saratoga. Along with a hundred other curious citizens we stood behind the police line that surrounded the low rise apartments. Just after I arrived shooting broke out – every office on the line, about 30, opened fire, wildly, yes wildly shooting up the place like drunk cowboys. A Lt. was yelling for the cops to stop shooting. He eventually had to risk getting shot by standing out in front of the line to get them to stop. “No fire control” I thought to myself. “Reckless”. Peter Mahone did wrong. But the cops are paid by the people to protect the people, not put them at risk. They did it in the extreme that day, risking the public and themselves. When Peter Peter emerged from the apartment, wounded in the left arm, a Sgt ran up to him and hit him on the head with the butt of his 45 automatic. In the days that following bullet holes were found in numberous apartment buildings surrounding the site.

The reckless behavior did cause the creation of the OB Human Rights Committee. HRC was not concerned with defending Peter, it was concerned with telling the Police and Chief Ray Hobbler (who went on to be manage Prostitutes as head of security at Atlas Hotels, a common role for Hotel security.)

Forever vigilant.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Dickie and JEC – you guys have made my day! Seriously, this is what it’s all about. Creating a moment and a mechanism through which you guys can spout your personal/ political histories while living in OB. And especially about this day – Feb 22 1974.

Truly, thanks to both of you, on behalf of those in OB who don’t know this history because it’s the people’s history, something not taught at OB Elementary and there’s no book at the OB Library with the record – but kept alive by oral histories, and groups like the OB Historical Society and the OB Rag blog.

Plus, let me give a plug here for donating to our blog in order to get original issues of the first OB Rag. There’s lots of OB history in the weathered and yellowed pages of OB’s iconic underground newspaper. See the Nav Bar for OB Rags Scanned.

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avatar Dog Beach Dude February 23, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I went by that house (in the 1st picture) today on the corner of Abbot & Saratoga and realized that I had just been talking to a dude that lived at either 2014 or 2014 ½. I turned around to go back and talk to him to see if he knew what went down that day but he had already gone inside and I didn’t want to bug him, so I moved on.

I would have been in my mid-teens in ’74 and completely against any kind of police presence (tho we called them “Pigs” back then) anywhere in San Diego. I went to High School in the Loma Portal area and was majorly anti-war but I only vaguely remember the incident, so it’s awesome to hear first hand accounts of the events of that day and what happened afterwards.

I would hope that these days that our men & women in blue wouldn’t over-react like that but, then I remember what happened to Danny “the Walker” Woodyard a mere 6 years ago here. I know that cops will protect their own no matter where you live in the US, that our cops in particular are some of the lowest paid in the country and that it’s one of the most dangerous and (at times) stressful jobs in the world, but I’d still like to believe that these days there’s more good-will between the SDPD and OB. We’re all now a lot older and hopefully much wiser and like I said in another blog here about Blondstone, we’re all in this together.

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avatar Larry OB February 24, 2009 at 9:19 am

Here’s a brief recollection I’m forwarding from a former resident of the 5000 block of Saratoga:

“When i walked from my cottage to where i could see the whole ocean vista i was hit in the nose with pepper gas wafting out of Pete’s cottage &
when i took a look inside some days later i could still get teary eyed looking through the smashed
windows thereof.

I”v had my own place hit by the Praetorian guardians of the power pustules a couple of times.

Never a dull moment in O.B.”

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avatar Larry OB February 24, 2009 at 10:07 am

The Historical perspective….all combat troops have been removed from Vietnam by the time of the Mahone incident, G. Gordon Liddy had been found guilty on January 30th, and several days later the Sybionese Liberation Army had kidnapped Patricia Hearst. Skylab was proving successful. The economy sucked. Inflation was still increasing in spite of Nixon’s food and price controls. Our first gas crisis had just begun with the shortages, high prices and odd/even rationing. They were anxious times, and they were happy times. A time when hitchiking was considered normal…as was sharing a dube with the kind driver that picked you up. I don’t remember much about the shooting incident, except that it scared me a bit. If a cop wasn’t safe, then who was. It brought back memories of a sniping murder in the sandbox at the Silver Spray when I was a kid. A murder that was never solved.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 24, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Thanks Larry OB for putting it all into historical context. Yet, Nixon was still in power – he didn’t resign until August, I believe, August 1974.

Because Nixon was still in power, and because the country had learned about all the Watergate revelations, about how the FBI and CIA, and other US intelligence agencies, often in collusion with local police departments, had spied and manipulated the anti-Vietnam war movement, the civil rights and Black power movements via COINTELPRO, there was understandably a huge mistrust between activists whether across the nation or right here in OB with the police and other law enforcement.

There was also fear that Nixon might institute martial law in order to stay in power.

Okay, the happy times. In OB near this time, there was a movement to secede from the City of San Diego. A bunch of activists associated with the OB Community Planning Group – a forerunner of the Planning Board – actually met several times to look into the issue, do research, and even visit activists in other cities with like-minded visions. A bunch of us – as I was involved – traveled up to Venice in LA and met with folks there working in the “Free Venice” movement. In the end, however, we decided that OB did not have a sufficient tax base to pull it off. What were we to do? contract out law enforcement with the County Sheriffs?

You mentioned hitchhiking and man, OB was home to a lot of hitchhikers. Remember Hitchhikers’ Corner? Just north – by literally a few feet – of the gas station on the corner as you leave OB – now it’s Exxon – was a sandy site where hitchhikers stood waiting for rides. Rides to San Diego State, downtown, Arizona or New York. And lots of people would stop and pick people up. It was amazing, when you think of it now. Now there’s too much fear. Share your vehicle with a stranger? Oh my god!

… and I do recall the sniper incident. A couple was murdered and yeah, never solved.

OKay, here’s one: do you remember the sailors who were tragically buried when they were digging in the cliffs? This was 1973 – 74. Memory lane.

As modern Americans we’ve lost the oral traditions of a tribal people. Those are very important. So, to compensate, we have this blog.

Current residents of OB should be aware of the history of this community, and of its traditions. Not only is it colorful, it’s instructive, whether you live here now or in some other city. (Some of that history is right here – check out the history of the first OB Rag.)

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avatar steve muir July 18, 2009 at 4:55 pm

What a bunch of crap! I was living on West Pt. Loma and saw it ALL. After the first few cop cars went by at about 70, I jumped on my bike. Cars kept comming full blast into Robb. Cruised around there for a little while watching the swat teams come in their armored vans. Knew something was up and took off to see. Ended up right behind(10 feet) of the two decetive cars that had the guns on the house. Only four cops there. Two cops had their pistols over the hoods and two more cops were at the garage which stuck out from the house. One cop started sneaking up to the front porch about the time another six or eight cars pulled in. I kept my position and the cars pulled all around. Out come the guns. The decetives start yelling at the cop on the porch to get out of there. The cop was so stressed he turned around and freaked at all the weapons. Just walked right out in front of the window and the punk shot him in the back. Then the cops let loose. He got picked up and put in an ambulance while the cops charged in after he threw out the gun. The first two decetives get the guy out of the house. One clipps him in the head with the butt of his gun to get him on the ground to cuff. This was the basis of his police brutality defense. The guy was a weasel and deserved everything he4 got.

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avatar obfuzz February 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm

If this had been anywhere else in the country the cops would have shot him dead no matter what. No matter how much you rip on the cops and minimize one of them being ambushed with shot to the face by a coward… they clearly were more professional than many of their other counter parts in the country.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Well, obfuzz, the cops that day certainly tried to shoot Mahone. Hundreds of rounds were poured into the shack he lived in. One cop was hit by friendly fire. Police gunshots put at risk hundreds of residents. We did not minimize the officer that Mahone shot, and in fact, stated that fortunately he did live. For you to claim we’re “rip(ping) on the cops” without acknowledging the armed police take-over of Ocean Beach that day 36 years ago displays your utter contempt of balanced community-police relations, civilian review of police, and the fact that OB was treated horribly by SDPD back then. Meanwhile, there are current complaints of police over-reaction – which shows also how little the lessons of yesterday have been learned by police. I would think that if you are truly a police officer you would show a little more respect for this checkered history instead of dissing those of us who are trying to teach current generations of OBceans that sordid history.

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avatar obfuzz February 22, 2010 at 9:15 pm

If the cops back the are as awful as you say they were, why did they not just take the guy out back and shoot him? There are as many complaints about police under reaction in OB as over reaction.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Too many witnesses. Police did detain 4 people, roughing up one of them. Read some of the comments by people who were there.

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avatar Peyton Farquhar February 22, 2010 at 8:35 pm

And here I assumed that all along OB was always hippy central. Wow. I can’t imagine the SWAT team in town…how’d they manage to get down Sunset Cliffs Blvd. to drag poor ol’ Petey outta his hovel?

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 23, 2010 at 9:01 am

Nobody ever condoned what Peter Mahone did that day. We did try to understand why he would go for suicide by cop. Read the post. He had become paranoid and very stressed out. A lot of that paranoia and stress was caused by constant police harassment.

Let me tell you, it’s pretty easy to sit back after all these years and totally condemn him. Try to understand the fever of the times.

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avatar mr.rick September 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Since Pete’s grand daughter brought this era to the fore front, I thought I’d fill in a small gap on the two sailors buried in the cliffs back in ’73 or 4? Pretty sure it was warm at the time . I’m positive I was sitting on the cliff at the Cove (Santa Cruz St.) smoking a dube with Jody from Newport Beach when the cops came by and said “Put that Joint out”. Two of them went further down the cliff trail and pulled on a shoe with a human foot still in it.Evidently, a couple of Cliff Rats had discovered the foot filled shoe and ran home to report it. When we were small fry we had it drilled into us not to dig in the sand cliffs and not to surf at the Little Jetty. Not every one gets that message when they come to our beach. Those super soft sand stone? cliffs are just too easy to carve up. And it doesn’t require a lot of semi-damp sand to trap and suffocate a person.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm

mr rick – I too remember the day they found the sailors in the cliff. I was working at the Inbetween on Newport Ave when someone ran in with the story. It was just an awful reminder of what those cliffs can do to the unwary.

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avatar tom June 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’ve been researching right wing assasins in 1976 which led me to Peter Bohmer and this article. It brings back memories of the BOA burning in Isla Vista, I was inside the bank at the time. In 1976 I had escaped from a Chilean prison and made my way back to Los Angeles about the time that a car bomb killed a former Chilean leftist in Washington DC. Within days of that assisination a gunman tried to shoot me down, fortunately my paranoia had prepared me for his arrival.
I wrote the story of my arrest and escape in the years that followed, then put the papers in storage and went on with life for the next thirty years. Now it is going to be shown on ” Locked up Abroad ” on July 3o 2012. This story doesn’t include the return through Peru or what happened in California following my return, that is what I’m working on now, Thus the research.
Maybe one of your readers knows more about Howard Godfrey or Michael Townley and could lead me in a useful direction.

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