OB Under Siege


EDITOR: This article was originally published in the Volume 4, number 8, early March 1974 edition of the OB Rag.

OB Rag, Early March 1974

Last Friday, shortly after 8 a.m., Officer William Ritter was wounded by a gunshot. At the time, Ritter was reportedly seated in his patrol car in the parking lot on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach.

Immediately after this incident, 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 Sherriff’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. Arrested were: Tom Kozden, Jeannie Sapienza, David Button, and George Katsiaficas. Katsiaficas’ charges were dropped because his arresting officer couldn’t be found, and at the time of press the charges against David Button are unknown.

Jeannie, however, was charged with “resisting- arrest,” although she went with the arresting officer peaceably and her only offense was to tell an officer not to call her “dearie”.” Tom Kozden, released on $1250 bail, is faced with the charges of interfering with a police officer and the felony count of assault and battery on a”police officer. Tom reports that he himself was beaten by officers at Robb Field and told that he would be held responsible for the shooting of the officer in the Abbott street residence.

Photo by Dan Coyro

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.

Tensions continued to rise in Ocean Beach between police and the crowd. Police threatened to make additional arrests. More people were threatened by police with drawn guns. One woman, attempting to see about a friend hours after the incident, was told to stay back because an investigation was going on. When she asked an officer for in­formation about the location of the investigation, she was told, “Do you want to go to jail?”

Finally pressure from city hall served to influence the police to with­draw the troops and institute a low police profile in the community.


An uneasy calm looms over Ocean Beach now. The maze of contradictory infor­mation communicated through the straight media yields little in concrete facts. What is known is that police had many suspects that morning-that many people were held at gunpoint and many doors were opened. None of this was por­trayed in the straight media-what we saw there was a dramatic Jack Webb story where the police “get their man.” It is hard to say to what extent this police and media portrayal have affec­ted perceptions of the events that morning. Although the police and the media have already tried and convicted a suspect named Peter Mahone, it is im­portant to keep our minds open to al­ternative ways of viewing Friday’s events.

On that Friday, Ocean Beach was easily made an armed camp by police, detective, and special services units. In a matter of minutes, entire areas were sectioned off, and access routes into the community were guarded.

We can contrast these events with the way another shooting was dealt with-when Paula Tharp was shot, by a sniper in her Ocean Beach home, it took half an hour for the police to arrive and a suspect was not appre­hended until months later.

Ocean Beach is living through a very violent time, as is the rest of the country. It seems as inequities in our society are felt and the econ­omic pinch continues, violence will continue to be a part of our lives. The police respond to violence other than their own with even more violence. But it seems that the only real way to deal with violence is to recognize and attempt to constructively change the underlying inequities which are at the root of the problem.

In the meantime, Ocean Beach contin­ues to be tense. Some police have warned that things will be even tighter here.

In order to deal with these problems, a meeting has been called for next Mon­day, March 4 7:30 pm at the OB Rec Cen­ter. It is crucial for the community to come together to deal positively with violence and the police situation. ~ miriam & dennis

The straight media has repeatedly mentioned the “lack of motivation” in the shootings. Yet it is apparent that the police will attempt to prove that there was some motivation involved. They will also try to tie in as many other people into the incident as possible, even if they had no involvement with it.

If you are contacted by investiga­tors of the San Diego Police Dept. or the District Attorney’s Office, you are not required to give them any in­formation other than your name, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. You don’t have to answer any questions about past events or actions.

OB People's Rag, Early March 1974

The saga continued…

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Peinado April 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm

I remember this day very well. I was a very young bride, living in an apartment on Niagara near the pier with my attorney husband. That morning, several of the wives of lawyers in the downtown law firm were to come for lunch. I waited and waited. Finally, one of the women called me and told me that OB was under lockdown, with no way in from the north. Two of the women finally found a way in. They both expressed thoughts that we were crazy to be living in such a unsafe place. I believe that the police still overreact to incidents in OB, doing things they would never do in La Jolla. I also believe that the criminalization of the OB community by the SDPD, besides continuing, is the principal reason for our depressed real estate values, in relation to other beach communities.


john July 15, 2010 at 1:22 am

I think if La Jolla had political activists, counterculture figures and heads living in it and tiny houses like OB, it would have similar property value woes. Of couse whether that’s a bad thing depends on your point of view, many people live in OB because they can’t afford La Jolla and/or can’t stand the people who can. The police don’t dictate property values though and it’s doubtful an oppressive police presence could drive them down. It does appear that the type properties inherent to OB, small houses and apartments on small lots, densely packed, does lead to lower tier income people being attracted here but it’s hardly their fault.


Lois February 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm

“I remember this day very well. I was a very young bride, living in an apartment on Niagara near the pier with my attorney husband. That morning, several of the wives of lawyers in the downtown law firm were to come for lunch.”

Thank you for this valuable relevant information. And am I correct in assuming “that the police still overact to incident in OB, doing things they would never do in La Jolla.” What has La Jolla got to do with it? Are you complaining because you bought a “small house?” Agreed that in the 70’s propety values were not good. But for quite some time OB has become quite gentrified. I see people that have purchased some of these houses and have built on to them and have done other artistic additions bringing additional beauty and value.


Lois February 22, 2012 at 11:39 pm

This comment to SUSAN PEINDO


Lois February 22, 2012 at 11:35 pm

“many people live in OB because they can’t afford La Jolla and/or can’t stand the people who can”

Don’t know what’s with you and the “very young bride,” and La Jolla, but your remark appears very uncalled for, and I know of at least a few OB residents would look strnagely at you.


Lois February 22, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Comment directed to john.


john February 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

not as strnagely as your comment appears to me.
What is so uncalled for about that remark?


Diane5150 August 2, 2010 at 6:39 am

Same crap, different century.


Rick Ward December 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm

OO..nce the airport is moved,the price of property escalates.When that happens…………..Time to go.


Rick Ward December 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm

No comprendo moderation.


BOB August 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm



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