NEWPORT BEACH — Four alleged white supremacists were taken into custody on charges of stabbing a Latino man while he was fishing at the Balboa Pier, after witnesses overheard the group roaming the nearby Balboa Fun Zone arcade talking about "white pride," police said.
The group approached the victim, 37, about 9:45 p.m. Thursday and one allegedly stabbed him in the right shoulder blade, Newport Beach Police Sgt. John Desmond said.
"Apparently there's nothing that premeditates it, no conversation or anything," Desmond said.
Fishermen and residents described the outburst of violence as an uncharacteristic intrusion into the peninsula's placid atmosphere of surfers and family-oriented fun.
"This is the first time I've ever heard of a scuffle or anyone even raising their voice," said Ted Post, 53, of Orange, who grew up on Balboa Island and has been fishing the pier for bonito since he was seven. "It's the first time the skinheads have come down here."
The stabbing jarred residents in a town more accustomed to the occasional surf accident.
"You don't hear sirens here unless someone's getting macked [sic] at the Wedge," Steve Heiberger, 24, of Costa Mesa said of the popular surf spot.
The victim, Ramon Valdez Martinez of Orange, was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana where he was in guarded condition.
The suspects were arrested shortly after the stabbing by a patrol officer who heard a broadcast and saw their vehicle at Balboa Boulevard and 15th Street.
Daniel Michael James Johnson, 18, of Orange; Bryan James Serio, 20, of Anaheim, and Dennis Paul Desanti Jr., 18, of Westminster, were booked into the Newport Beach City Jail without bail on suspicion of attempted murder and the commission of a hate crime, Desmond said.
The fourth youth, a 17-year-old from Mission Viejo, was booked into Orange County Juvenile Hall on the same charges, Desmond said.
Desmond said divers from the Orange County Sheriff's Department and Newport Beach Marine Department recovered a large folding knife in the Newport Bay off the M Street Pier about 12:30 p.m. Friday.
"Our detectives had reason to believe that it was discarded in that area," he said. "We've obtained some information from [the suspects] that led us to search the right area. As to the extent of the cooperation, I don't know."
Desmond said it appears only one suspect stabbed Martinez, but it is unclear at this point who was responsible. Police may seek less serious charges against the others, he said. Investigators are also trying to clarify the motive for the stabbing.
One of the suspects, all of whom have shaved heads and tattoos, according to Desmond, was carrying white supremacist literature.
"We're trying to find out if there is some kind of affiliation" with a white supremacist group, he added. "I think it's pretty safe to say they are skinheads. They're into white pride and white supremacy. We have one witness who said they were being loud and raucous and overheard them saying something about white pride."