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Graphic Photo of Man Masturbating in Santa Monica Park Causes Uproar


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By Jorge Casuso

Editor's note: This article updated at 8:34 p.m.

July 13, 2018 -- A graphic photograph of a man masturbating in a Santa Monica park posted on social media Thursday has led to the arrest of the suspect and caused an uproar in a City increasingly concerned with crime.

The photo by Santa Monica resident Tom Lackey -- who has been photographing illegal behavior at Chess Park and sending the pictures to City offficials for a year -- was posted unedited Thursday evening on Residocracy Santa Monica's Facebook page.

The graphic image shows a man masturbating on a bench at the park just south of the Santa Monica Pier. Other photos show him urinating against a tree.

Facebook flagged the post minutes after it went up and asked Residocracy's site administrator if it should be removed.

It was a tough decision to make, said Armen Melkonians, a political activist who runs the site.

"I thought about it and thought about it," Melkonians told the Lookout Friday. "I thought to myself, 'It needs to go out. This is happening in our parks with our children.

"I thought, 'I didn't create this situation, so let it hang out, so to speak.'"

Less than 10 minutes later, Facebook removed the post. Melkonians edited the pictures. He covered the man's private parts with a red bar and blured the man's face. Then he reposted it.

"The responses were flying, not that I had posted it, but that this was happening in our parks."

On Friday evening, Feacebook removed the edited post.

With Residocracy focusing less on development and more on crime, Melkonians used the post to demand action from City officials.

He asked all seven City Council members to "do something." Only Sue Himmelrich responded.

"I agree with all of you that this is disgusting, unacceptable, and must be addressed actively and preventatively," she wrote.

"And if I could go there and arrest miscreants myself, I would. I have said the same to our staff which is the extent of my power."

Himmelrich also noted that Lackey had reported that "the police responded promptly and arrested the perpetrator," adding that "public safety is our #1 job and we need to do better."

Lackey, who lives near Chess Park, said he has been chronicling drugs deals and drug abuse at the park on the beach since last July.

He has sent the photos to the mayor, the city manager and several city council members requesting that a security guard be posted.

The response, Lackey said, is that the City doesn't have the resources to place a security guard on site. Given the City's high salaries and $1.5 billion biennial budget, Lackey said he was shocked.

"I was befuddled," he said. "I was mindblown."

He also suggested the City should pass laws against loitering that could give police a reason to help clean up the problem.

"This park was meant for chess players," he told The Lookout, "not campers and transients laying out on the tables and doing drugs and drinking every day.

"They didn't do it. They didn't put any laws to stop this hell."

A recent video of a mentally ill man wielding a hammer above his head and yelling "I'm going to chop your f---ing heads off" also elicited no response from the City, he said.

Lackey said he was encouraged to post the graphic picture of the man masturbating by a female friend and mother of two who was with him and "witnessed this horror."

"She advised me not to hold any of the photos back, because every person in Santa Monica, resident or tourist, needs to spread the word that Chess Park is beyond dangerous!!!

"Her words: 'Pictures Do Not Lie.'"

Lackey ended his post by thanking police for their "prompt response."

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