A video surfaced over the weekend that seems to show Redwood Bar and Grill owner Christian Frizzell hitting a well-known homeless man named Frank Chiari in the street in front of his Downtown Los Angeles bar. Passerby Dylan Doren captured a portion of the already in-progress altercation on camera and uploaded it to YouTube, sparking DTLA residents to speak out in defense of either Frizzell or Chiari. In the video, shown in full below, Frizzell appears to open-hand hit Chiari.
The following online comments reflect the polarizing nature of the incident and the different sides to the story:
“Hey everybody! Let's come in on the end of an altercation with NO context, give the majestic Homeless Person the benefit of the doubt and immediately elevate him to victim status, and try to destroy a small business owner!” writes one Youtube commenter.
Meanwhile, a Twitter user defends Chiari:
The "homeless senior citizen" in this video is our friend Frank who helps out at the Smell https://t.co/EzT86QN0pQ— clipping (@clppng) August 24, 2017
Local music venue The Smell posted this statement on their Facebook page after the incident:
The "homeless senior citizen" in the video is Frank Chiari, whom many of you may know as the gentleman who sweeps up our alley and collects our bottles and cans each night. This chilling, ugly incident apparently took place the night before last, one day after Frank's birthday.
I am told that Frank, though bruised up and shaken, is doing ok after this horrifying incident. But if you see him around, please offer him your support and best wishes.
Doren tells alt weekly publication LA Weekly that he was simply passing by on his skateboard when the incident began and he started to record it from his phone. Doren also tells Fox 11 that once the incident was over, Frizzell began to turn on him and ask about his race — a claim Frizzell denies.
It’s not clear from the video what prompted the assault, but Chiari is said to be unharmed from the incident. Frizzell, for his part, says on camera that he was defending himself from being grabbed and held onto by Chiari. He adds that his issues with Chiari go back more than a decade. Specifically, Frizell says that Chiari has harassed his customers and even followed some of them home.
Frizzell declined to speak to Eater on the record about the altercation. Reached this morning by phone, he remains shaken up not only by the incident but also the ensuing fallout. He texted the below statement to Eater:
On Tuesday August 22 at approximately 12 midnight the management of the Redwood Bar responded to the complaints of some female customers of an individual harassing them in an aggressive manner.
When this individual was asked to leave the premises he assaulted a member of staff. He was then escorted from the restaurant and a struggle ensued.
An individual saw the struggle and started filming. His account is not a complete record of the event. The video he has produced of the event has been heavily edited and contains a number of falsehoods.
Frizzell continues with the statement, from his own perspective:
My name is Christian Frizzell and I am embarrassed and saddened by this video.
I never assaulted any one or said any of those things. it's never fun to have to forcefully remove someone from your business.
Frank has been coming around harassing my clients and employees for a decade. He once followed one of my female employees home.
I asked frank to leave and when he wouldn't it got physical. Frank hit me, Ripped my shirt spit on me and all I did was try to escort him away. [sic]
The police responded to the scene and when they saw the physical evidence of the struggle asked if I wanted the suspect arrested. I declined.
I am not a bigot or a racist. I'm a small business owner who is a father of four and the allegations and statements in the video are false accusations.”
This news comes amid increased incidents of violence in Downtown lately, particularly with the homeless and mentally ill — even as more and more money continues to pour into new high-rises and mixed-use developments. Meanwhile, LA County’s homeless population continues to rise at an alarming rate as the lack of public housing and infrastructure to deal with the very real crisis continues to dog Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Stay tuned for more as this story develops.