Around 20 demonstrators showed up on August 7th and that number doubled on August 8th in front of JP23 Urban Kitchen on the corner of Commonwealth Ave and Harbor Blvd. “It is a dangerous place, and we will shut it down,” one demonstrator said. Samantha Velasquez says she was drugged at JP23 on August 1, and then later raped, and left in a parking structure near the Metro station. Velasquez decided to post her story on social media, and it went viral. Many women began sharing similar stories on Instagram, Nextdoor, and a variety of other social media. A group formed and the consensus of the newly formed group was that the restaurant was to blame for perpetuating a rape culture. Several people began organizing protests to demand the restaurant/bar shut down.
During the first protest, JP23 released part of a surveillance camera video from the night of the alleged rape on their Facebook page. The partial clip showed Velasquez stumbling toward a table and twerking (a sexually provocative dance) with a man in a Hawaiian shirt who does not appear intoxicated. Later in the clip it shows Velasquez being led out by the man. Velasquez said she wants the restaurant to post the entire video, especially the part where she was drugged. The video clip has since been taken down. Many protesters said they thought posting the clip was meant to shame Velasquez.
When asked why the clip was released, JP23 owner Jacob Poozhikala told the Observer, “The clip shows that Velasquez was not under duress and that the restaurant’s security had no probable cause to interfere with her leaving. We have gone above and beyond what is required by any other restaurant in downtown Fullerton for the security of our patrons. We have surveillance cameras, security guards, lighting, and training that gives our patrons the sense of safety and security that makes them loyal customers.”
The effects of date rape drugs cause lack of inhibition, impaired judgment, and memory loss, among other symptoms. According to healthline.com, these are fast acting, powerful drugs that leave a person vulnerable to assault and do not always show up on toxicology reports. Depending on the drug and the metabolism of the individual a person can seem intoxicated, but still look like they are in control of themselves.
Employees of JP23 say they have been getting death threats and people calling them rapists. A video on Nextdoor, shows protestors calling the JP23 security rapists and demanding to have their sign returned. One employee said, “I have a family. I am not a rapist, and neither are my coworkers. My coworkers are all good people. It is tragic what happened to this girl, but they should focus on the bad guy who did this to her.”
This is what happened to Samantha in her own words as told to the Observer. “I went to JP23 on my own and met up with my friend Candace. Candace introduced me to a guy name Mike, he was nice and kept me company for a while after Candace left.”
“Mike and I were at the bar when I got to talking with two girls. Some guy bought us all drinks. At that time, I had just finished my second drink. I asked the girls to introduce me to this guy with a red shirt. We hit it off. I danced with him for a while, but then I went to the bathroom.”
“That was when I left my drink unattended. I got into a little altercation with one of the girls. She kept banging on the bathroom door yelling for me to let her in. [When I came back] I finished my drink. That is when I think I was drugged. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the parking structure near the Metro station with none of my belongings. My leggings were ripped. I had to walk home. I told my roommate that I lost all my stuff and could she track my phone for me. We tracked it to a locked city maintenance vehicle. I never found my fanny pack.”
“Then I called my mom and told her what happened. My mom called JP23 to report the situation. When my mom asked to talk to the manager or owner, she was told that they couldn’t speak to her. My mom took me to the Fullerton police [station]. We made the report with Officer Harvey. We also went to Anaheim Medical to get a rape test done. That is when they found blunt force trauma.”
(A rape kit is a four-to-six-hour examination to collect all biological evidence left behind in a sexual assault. During the examination any injuries are documented and treated. The victim’s body is photographed to preserve evidence of bruising and injuries. Blunt force trauma means that the genitals have been injured. In cases of sexual assault this can include injury to pelvis, urethra, lower urinary tract, and gastrointestinal. These injuries may lead to abscess formation, sepsis, and even death if not treated. According to endthebacklog.org)
Many of the demonstrators at the August 7th protest shared their thoughts:
Curtis said he and his significant other, Jessica, were at JP23 about a year ago enjoying a drink. When Jessica complained that she felt drugged. They did not report it. “This bar is either being negligent and not able to create a safe environment, or they are trying to hide the fact that a group of predators are using this as a stomping ground for date rape. If the bar is complicit and is an accessory, then I want them to be shut down.”
Another woman has come forward with allegations of being drugged at this restaurant as well said, “I came here for a night out. We were only here for maybe an hour, and then everything went black. Seven hours later, I woke up in jail. They told me I was found passed out/unconscious in a security exit. It’s an ongoing investigation right now.” (According to California Penal Code 647(F), the standard procedure when finding a person unconscious is [not to take them to the hospital], but to determine if they are intoxicated by administering a test and then arresting and charge them for Public Intoxication.)
Another demonstrator said that she thought there has been an enforcement issue in the downtown area for a long time. “There are too many bars so close together. The city spends over a million dollars per year to enforce, clean, and fix damage. That is well over the amount of revenue the city brings in from the area. It is out of control.”
Jane said, “I came here because I wanted Samantha to know that we believe her. We are standing here for her. We are grateful for her coming forward. I am so glad that she has the strength to be here.”
Jose Castaneda showed up at the demonstration and told protesters to go to city council on August 17th to make their voices heard.
The Observer asked councilmembers to comment and two gave the following statements:
Councilmember Fred Jung said that he went on a ride-along with Fullerton police back in May where he witnessed first-hand problems with JP23. “I witnessed over 30 people being arrested that night, including a security guard from JP23 who had brass knuckles that he used on a patron. I asked to look into their conditional use permit for any violations. I want to assure the public that we will get to the bottom of this issue in a timely manner. It is a public nuisance and safety issue.”
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra agreed that safety is paramount and that the city is taking this matter very seriously. “We must set improved safety standards for our downtown and bar establishments in our city. We should create a downtown “Business Improvement District” in partnership with our businesses, then reinvest the revenue into safety, clean-up, and maintenance of our downtown. We should also invest in economic development to attract more family oriented activities, such as arts and culture.”
Fullerton Police Department Public Information Officer Sergeant Brandon Clyde when contacted by the Observer on August 8th said, “Detectives have been assigned and have actively been investigating the incident since the report was received earlier this week. Our detectives are diligently working and have been in contact with other parties and statements have been taken. We encourage anyone with information to contact Detective K. Pedrosa at 714-738-6763 or anonymously call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1(855) TIP-OCCS.”
Categories: Local News