A Southern California man is in custody after attacking a group of reporters and photographers who were investigating a viral social media post purportedly showing the man fondling a woman in front of his business.
Peter Carzis, 76, of La Mesa was booked on several counts of battery and vandalism after he attacked news photographers and reporters who were questioning him about numerous allegations of harassment against customers and community members in connection with his men’s apparel business on La Mesa Boulevard in the San Diego suburb.
For months, neighboring business owners, customers and community members — including at least one city official — have complained of alleged harassment by Carzis. Those complaints ranged from allegations that Carzis made inappropriate comments to female customers and that the store owner swore and spat at people who passed by his shop or patroned nearby businesses.
Late last week, things came to a head after someone posted a cellphone video purporting to show Carzis and an unknown female engaging in sexual activity in front of his store. The video shows someone believed to be Carzis placing his face between the breasts of the woman and moving his head back and forth, a sexual act known as “motorboating.”
Police were already investigating Carzis for the act when reporters began showing up to his men’s apparel store called “Peter’s.” An eyewitness told NBC affiliate KNSD-TV (Channel 39) Cardiz became agitated and shoved a female reporter to the ground.
When other media colleagues went to render aid to the reporter, Cardiz flew into a rage, swearing at the reporters and photographers, displaying his middle finger, then shoving several photographers before destroying a tripod-mounted camera.
One of the reporters targeted by Cardiz included KUSI-TV (Channel 51) reporter Dan Plante, who said the enraged store owner tried to throw a punch at him.
“Fortunately he’s a slow, old man and he didn’t connect, so that was good,” Plante said during a live broadcast on Monday. “This guy came out blazing with his fists and his feet, and I mean it’s just unbelievable.”
Plante called La Mesa Police, who arrived on scene but could not find Cardiz. A city-wide search was carried out for the store owner, and he was eventually found and arrested Tuesday morning, KNSD reported.
Cardiz was booked on multiple battery charges in connection with the assaults on news media employees and one vandalism charge for allegedly destroying a news camera worth $7,000. La Mesa police officials confirmed additional charges connected with the social media video are pending.
None of the reporters involved in the incident were seriously injured.
Police are asking anyone who felt they may have been victimized by Cardiz to call them at (619) 667-1400.