For weeks, the Ocean Beach Business Center and Lazy Hummingbird Coffee & Tea House in Ocean Beach were harassed by a man who was found creeping around the shared retail space.
I spoke with the business center owner, Joella Peregoy, who explained: “We were nice to him one night, since then, he’s been giving us and the staff a very hard time. We have found him in all areas locked and unlocked in the shop and surrounding yard – even scaring the two elderly people behind us…this is the first time our street (Santa Monica Ave) had every business owner and employee out making sure he was gone – he’s been messing with the whole block. Even kept saying it was a ‘misunderstanding’ every time we asked him to leave because he made the girls uncomfortable by being in areas where he wasn’t supposed to be.”
It started on November 30 around 9:30 pm.
“My husband and I were outside painting the front of the building with our daughter when he stopped and asked if he could buy some coffee. We told him the Hummingbird was closed, to come back in the morning. My daughter said ‘Hi, what’s your name? He responded ‘Jason’ and she shook his hand. She’s 3. Later that night, while we were still painting, he came by with a small rubber ducky for her – a very kind gesture on his part. We have tried to show her compassion and acceptance of all, but after all of this, we just feel so violated. Especially since he seemed so harmless.”
A few days later, Peregoy received a text message from one of the Hummingbird employees.
“One of the Hummingbirds texted me asking if we hired someone to sweep up and clean dog poop from the common area behind our building because there was some guy back there. I told them no, and they asked him to leave…a few days later, another employee from the Hummingbird found him again – this time inside the building, in a private office just staring into the refrigerator, again, they told him to leave, that he can’t be in there, by now they were really freaked out, this was the first major incident of him in the building…in the days following, he would randomly show up, order coffee and walk through the employee areas. At first I thought maybe he was confused or looking for the restroom, but it started happening daily, for weeks.”
Several neighbors in the area behind the space also contacted Peregoy about noise from back gate, which is locked.
“They told me the chain is rattling around 4 am, waking them up and wondered what time our staff gets there, so we think he had been rattling the gate to get in…our biggest concern was employee safety; he seemed to be basically casing the business, he knew what females were working, what males were working and would only come in when the females were there – for two weeks we were constantly telling him you gotta go, you can’t be in here. By this time we were making sure there was always a male employee on site along with the females.”
On Sunday, December 9, Jason broke into the building via the back gate, was found inside the building again and chased out by an employee.
“We have cameras,” she told me, “but he always had his head down, or a hat on so we were only able to see his nose and cheeks and were having trouble trying to identify him.”
On December 10, Jason came into the Hummingbird, ordered a coffee and sat at a table as if nothing had happened.
The police were called again (he was gone by the time they arrived), and it had since been discovered that his truck was parked in front of the storefront. The police took another report and put a notice on his truck that it was going to be towed.
“He removed the elk horn from the front and after he saw the tow tag, he then resorted to covering the truck with a yellow and white tarp...when talking to him, his personality, his demeanor, he was calm, never rude, non-confrontational until he got into his truck, he’d start yelling at himself and throwing stuff on the ground.”
When asked if he had stolen from the business center during the December 9 break-in, Peregoy told me it was only minor things like paper cups or plates, but had concerns about other items in his possession.
“The day before his car was towed, my husband and I were walking across the street to the post office, when Jason approached us with a peace offering, he said ‘Hey, man it’s just a misunderstanding.’ My husband said ‘we don’t want this.’ He left the items – gift wrapped in tin foil – in front of our business. It’s a set of plates and coffee cups, hopefully we can find out if someone is missing them.”
After the police towed his truck, the businesses were told that he was on probation and he was arrested. The police found several packages in the truck addressed to others, which they left with the business center in hopes of returning them to the rightful owners.
“The police suggested and we did file a ‘Letter of Agency’ with the City of San Diego which gave the police authorization to remove him from the premises."