VENTURA (CBSLA) — A senseless and heartbreaking attack left a Ventura father dead and now his family is speaking out for the first time.
Anthony Mele was sitting inside of a beachfront restaurant, eating dinner with his family when he was fatally stabbed to death while holding his young daughter.
“He was married with the baby, and working, was doing really good. He was just a really good guy,” Anthony’s mother Becky Mele said in an exclusive interview with CBSLA.
Her 35-year-old son was killed 15 months ago in a brutal and random act of violence that shook Ventura County.
“This is just unbelievable you know? You’re inside a restaurant somebody come and stab you? I mean you think someone can come up to you but with a knife to stab you,” Becky said.
Anthony was finishing up dinner at Aloha Steakhouse with his wife and 5-year-old daughter when 49-year-old Jamal Jackson, reported to be homeless, walked up to his table and stabbed Anthony in the neck, investigators said.
Becky recalled first hearing about the attack saying, “When my daughter called and said, ‘Anthony got stabbed, we’re going to the hospital,’ I just gasped. I just felt it. Something when you get stabbed in the neck. You’re not….you know.”
Witnesses said Jackson, who could be seen in surveillance footage, was acting erratically and harassing people on the promenade.
Police were called regarding Jackson’s behavior but did not respond. A dispatcher monitoring the security footage determined Jackson wasn’t a threat.
Ventura police later said they should have sent officers but none were available at the time.
“We had units that were in the city but were on calls and not available to respond initially,” said Ventura Police.
According to prosecutors, Jackson has a lengthy criminal record that includes charges of domestic violence.
Jackson’s defense attorney said that he also has an extensive record of mental illness.
After a court hearing last year, the Ventura County District Attorney described behavior that backed up those claims.
“He started rambling about cameras in his eyes and the FBI talking to him,” the attorney said
The judge entered a not guilty plea on Jackson’s behalf and set bail at $3 million.
Jackson still awaits trial more than a year after the attack. His defense attorney says it has been suspended due to what she called “his lack of competency.”
Anthony’s random and shocking murder devastated a community and sparked questions about whether the city was doing enough to help the homeless and police those living in the streets.
“I feel no longer safe in my beloved town of Ventura,” one resident said.
“Anytime an innocent person is killed, is horrible, to blame it on an entire community that has no place to live is not acceptable,” another resident said.
Becky will never recover from the loss of her oldest son but is torn between her own grief and her empathy for those living on the streets.
“What’s everybody doing to stop this? I don’t even think they’re doing enough,” she said. “This has just destroyed us.”
The Mele’s aren’t alone. Dozens of random senseless attacks have happened since Anthony was fatally stabbed.
According to police, violence directed at the homeless and violence being committed by the homeless continues to rise as the homeless population grows and that problems with mental illness and drug addiction only make it worse.