The owner of Peter’s Men’s Apparel in downtown La Mesa was arrested early Tuesday amid accusations of misdemeanor battery and felony property destruction after he was videotaped attacking at least three news photographers Monday.
Peter Carzis, the shop owner, also was wanted for complaints filed over a lewd act in public caught on video Saturday and posted on Twitter, as well as for an additional battery complaint after he allegedly spit on a passerby over the weekend.
Carzis, 76, of La Mesa was in custody on charges of felony vandalism and misdemeanor battery, police said.
“Carzis is accused of battering multiple reporters and causing irreparable damage to a video camera reported to be worth approximately $7,000,” said police Lt. Gregory Runge.
Carzis’ location immediately following the incident was unknown, prompting an active canvassing of the area by the La Mesa Police Department Investigations Division late into Monday night, Grunge said.
He was found early Tuesday in adjacent San Diego.
Carzis will eventually be booked into the San Diego County Jail after being medically cleared, Grunge said.
The Twitter video sparked public outrage, showing Carzis apparently groping the breasts of a woman straddled across his lap on a public sidewalk in front of his resale clothing shop on La Mesa Boulevard west of Spring Street.
Some residents who know the woman have indicated they think she is mentally impaired. LMPD has indicated that detectives want to talk with any potential victims of sexual misconduct by Carzis.
Addie Pastore posted on the La Mesa Happenings page on Facebook that she and her husband Saturday were walking past Peter’s Men’s Apparel at 8239 La Mesa Blvd. when her husband waved at the shop owner and he spit in their direction.
“My husband stopped and turned around and said, ‘Excuse me?’ The owner again spit in my husband’s face and said F-you to him FOR NO REASON,” she wrote.
The recent incidents aren’t the first times that Carzis has been accused of inappropriate behavior. Several other women have posted comments on Yelp claiming he touched them inappropriately or made crude comments.
One woman posted a video and still photos of Carzis clutching his crotch and shouting at her.
One resident, who asked not to be named, created a printout passed out to nearby business owners to notify them of “unwelcome behavior” by Carzis that may be affecting other businesses, since some people have posted on social media that they are avoiding the area near Carzis’ store.
The letter lists the alleged actions, some documented on video, and questions why no arrests or legal action have been taken despite multiple complaints. The printout urges business owners to voice concerns at the City Council hearing Jan. 28 at City Hall.
Store owner goes berserk on the San Diego media in front of his shop after he is accused of lewd acts in public. @fox5sandiego police are searching for him. @LaMesaPD @LaMesaCA pic.twitter.com/cV0JxEGDK7
— Jaime Chambers (@jaimechambers) January 20, 2020
— Jaime Chambers (@jaimechambers) January 20, 2020
When news media arrived midafternoon Monday to confront Carzis about the accusations, an altercation ensued.
Witnesses have indicated Carzis first went after a female reporter/photographer from Univision, breaking her camera. Photos on social media show multiple pieces broken off the camera, scattered across the street.
La Mesa PD is aware of the video posted on the La Mesa Happenings group and will be following up with any potential victims. pic.twitter.com/lJ27OGSxG2
— La Mesa PD (@LaMesaPD) January 20, 2020
Carzis then chased, lunged at and repeatedly pushed another photographer with a video camera, then turned around and struck yet a third journalist, Dan Plante of KUSI, in the face, drawing blood.
Throughout the rampage, Carzis is heard on videos repeatedly cursing at the reporters, then laughing before running into his store and locking the door. By the time police arrived, Carzis was gone, presumably escaping out a back door.
Superior Court records indicate that a Peter Carzis has had three civil lawsuits filed against him in East County, including two harassment cases in 2013 and 2015.
In 2013, a restraining order against Peter Carzis was granted. In 2015, a civil harassment restraining order was dismissed. Another 2015 case involved a dependent adult abuse restraining order.
There were also two criminal cases filed in 2013 in North County against a George P. Carzis, born in 1943.
Details and resolution of these cases were not readily available.
Hundreds of comments have been posted on social media voicing offense at the behavior of Carzis, with some speculating he could be suffering from dementia, mental illness or substance abuse.
But at least one community member remembered a time when Carzis seemed far different.
Kelly Halavais wrote that Carzis’ behavior has “drastically changed over the last few years,” adding, “for years he helped homeless man Larry (who I have known my entire life) get off the street and into a home where he could pass away somewhere safe vs. the streets.
“I am a resident of La Mesa for 50 years; the Peter today is not the Peter of a few years back, something is wrong, rather it be mental or alcohol, he has changed. I am hopeful he gets the help he needs. What I knew of him, he helped a man that my family loved, die with dignity.”
Updated at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 21, 2020
Miriam Raftery is editor of East County Magazine, where a version of this report was originally published. East County Magazine is a member of the San Diego Online News Association. Ken Stone is a Times of San Diego contributing editor.