“BE PATIENT AND STAY VIGILANT” WHEN RECREATING IN THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS, SAY TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVES AS THEY TRIED TO REASSURE A PUBLIC CONCERNED ABOUT A MURDER AND A STRING OF RANDOM SHOOTINGS IN AND AROUND MALIBU CREEK STATE PARK.
When Senator Henry Stern stepped to the podium at King Gillette Ranch on Sunday, August 19, he introduced the packed auditorium to the Santa Monica Mountains Interagency Task Force (SMMITF) that is investigating the shooting death of Tristan Beaudette on June 22, as well as a number of reports of random shooting incidents Malibu Creek State Park.
Stern convened this discussion to give residents a chance to ask questions and learn directly from the five law enforcement agency representatives responsible for security in the area who make up the task force.
“In the ever-expanding rural environment there are many jurisdictions that have control over the mountains,” Stern began. “These agencies, a joint task force, have stepped up to solve these crimes, but there are limits to how much information we can share today in an ongoing investigation. I hope people can appreciate that.”
Senior Field Deputy Tim Pershing read a prepared statement from Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who was unable to attend the meeting, but reassured constituents that his staff will be available to them and their concerns.
“When I heard of the tragic shooting of Tristan Beaudette while camping in Malibu Creek State Park, I was deeply pained,” wrote Bloom. “We have experienced too much gun violence in our country, from churches, to schools, urban neighborhoods, and now, in a place we have preserved specifically for those escaping the noise and pressure of urban life…. That peace has been shattered…. Our offices will make staff available to [the public] and we’ll do our best to be a conduit of factual information.”
For attendees hoping to hear more details about the investigation, however, they were sorely disappointed.
“We’re not releasing any specific information that [the Beaudette killing] is targeted or random,” said Lt. Rodney Moore, of L.A. Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau.
And that was pretty much the extent of the response from Task Force members when it came to further details about that incident or reports of other shooting incidents.
“I want to assure you that these events have been thoroughly investigated,” said Lt. James Royal, Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. “[We can share] communications and response protocols, but no tactics or details regarding suspects. We also can’t confirm whether the events are related or not.”
“This investigation didn’t start on June 22,” Royal continued. “There are several cases over the past 10 years in the Santa Monica Mountains. I’m here to set the record straight on facts and to let you know we are always open to new theories and facts. Please call them in.”
Royal then read out a list of incidents that happened between November 3, 2016, when James Rogers, hiking the Backbone Trail was shot in the arm while sleeping in his hammock in Tapia Park, and July 31, 2018, when an unconfirmed report of gunfire was called in. This year, on June 18, a Tesla driving on Malibu Canyon Road was hit by a bullet and four days later, Beaudette was killed in his tent. Two male bodies were found, one on May 16, another on July 22, that were determined to be gang-related murders.
Lt. Royal solicited the public’s help and gave out a number to call with any information regarding Beaudette’s murder or other shooting incidents: (323) 890-5500. For general community concerns, people can call the Lost Hills Sheriff’s station, (818) 878-1808, and ask for the Community Impact Team, Deputy John Peck.
“I strongly encourage you to trust your instincts; please trust it, call us, and we will investigate,” Royal said.
Parks officials seemed especially relieved to be part of a coalition with law enforcement.
Craig Sap, District Superintendent, CA State Parks, Angeles District, said, “We were concerned with public safety in the Santa Monica Mountains. Working together with CHP and LASD and having many conversations with Sen. Stern and Assemblymember Bloom and their staff, those relationships are going strong and will continue.”
“This is one of the strongest alliances I have ever worked with,” said Trooper Snow, Chief Ranger for the National Parks Service.
“We took our oath seriously,” said Walt Young, Deputy Executive Officer, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). “Nothing is more important to us than public safety. As we go through this tragedy—and we will—know that everyone of us has nothing more than top priority for your safety.”
In her comments, Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, City of Malibu, suggested that the task force should include the Fire Department. She also noted that there is a $35,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Tristan Beaudette’s killer.
“Today is an important step in solving the Beaudette crime,” said Lt. Moore. “Collectively, we have the resources. There is no ‘territory.’ We all came to help. For now, it’s this area we are addressing.”
“These cases were all documented despite a big lapse in time [between incidents]. We get many “shots fired” reports, some unconfirmed,” Lt. Royal said. “We’ve put a tremendous amount of resources, thought, and expertise into the protocol for future events. We’ll do better in the future.”
“We want to see this resolved as much as anyone else. We are all working partners and you can report information to anyone here,” said Tony Hoffman, Public Safety Superintendent, CA State Parks, Angeles District.
“We also have a robust volunteer program as extra eyes and ears to report a problem. Mounted equestrian and bike units patrol the parks and have radios to call the dispatch. It’s not a cliché,” Hoffman added.
“If you see something, say something. Please call (323) 890-5500.