On the evening of January 4, a family was taking its first trip to the beach in Venice, California, when a homeless man persisted in trying to grab the family’s six-year-old girl from her mother’s arms. That triggered the girl’s uncle, a U.S. Army veteran, to execute a takedown where the two men wrestled until LAPD Pacific Division officers arrived; it took six officers to subdue the homeless man.
Riley Pegram, his daughter Neveah and her uncle Chris were first accosted on the beach by Evan McLaurin-Nelson, whom investigators stated had a “lengthy arrest record in both Las Vegas and California that includes false imprisonment, indecent exposure, battery and disorderly conduct,” according to The Daily Mail, which added that McLaurin-Nelson claimed he knew Neveah and had to “save her.”
The family attempted to evade McLaurin-Nelson by joining Neveah’s mother getting dinner at a pizza shop, but McLaurin-Nelson followed them, trying to seize Neveah. Chris got a hand on his neck trying to forestall him, but McLaurin-Nelson again attempted to seize Neveah as her mother to shove him away with her leg, prompting Chris to grab McLaurin-Nelson’s hair and yank him to the ground, where they wrestled before Chris pinned the frenzied homeless man down.
Police stated, “He wrestled with the suspect for several minutes until LAPD Pacific Division officers responded and took the suspect into custody.” Riley said, “We think he was on something. On some type of drugs or something. I don’t know if he was homeless but I know he was on drugs.”
McLaurin-Nelson was later charged with one count of attempted kidnap and one of resisting an officer; he pled not guilty to both counts.
Neveah told KTLA, “It was so scary. I was bawling my eyes out because I was scared I was going to get taken away from my mommy and daddy.”
While the rest of the country experienced a combined decrease in homelessness in 2019, significant increases in unsheltered and chronic homelessness on the West Coast, particularly California and Oregon, offset those nationwide decreases, causing an overall increase in homelessness of 2.7 percent in 2019. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported declines in homelessness between 2018 and 2019, while 21 states reported increases in the number of persons experiencing homelessness. Homelessness in California increased by 21,306 people, or 16.4 percent, which is more than the total national increase of every other state combined.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson commented, “As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we’re also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high. In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency. Addressing these challenges will require a broader, community-wide response that engages every level of government to compassionately house our fellow citizens who call the streets their home.”