Councilmember Gene James was taken to a hospital on Monday night, Dec. 19, after being assaulted with a skateboard outside of his San Clemente home, resulting in multiple facial injuries, the elected official confirmed to San Clemente Times.
James, 68—who Sgt. Scott Steinle, public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, referred to as the victim when speaking with SC Times—was reportedly released from the hospital later that evening after suffering a concussion, lacerations to his scalp requiring stitches, forehead and scalp lacerations, and abrasions to his right ear and left forearm, Sgt. Scott Steinle said.
A 16-year-old was arrested and taken to juvenile hall in connection with the assault on the councilmember. The teen faces multiple charges including elderly abuse, terrorist threat, assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious injury, according to Steinle.
At around 6:54 p.m. on Monday, deputies responded to the 500 block of Avenida del Verdor, where the teen allegedly struck James in the head and facial area multiple times with a skateboard, Steinle said.
The incident began after James and his wife heard a noise outside of their home and went to investigate. They saw the teen skateboarding a few houses down, recognizing the individual as a neighbor of theirs, according to Steinle.
The teen reportedly became upset after noticing James’ wife using her cell phone to record the teen skateboarding. The teen then began to yell profanities before approaching James’ wife, who feared for her safety, Steinle said.
James stopped the teen from coming closer toward his wife by putting his arm out. The teen reportedly threatened James and his wife, allegedly stating that “he would kill them both with his skateboard,” according to Steinle.
“He then approached (James’ wife) a second time, and (James) intervened also a second time,” Steinle said, adding, that James “held on to the subject. Then the suspect hit him over the head multiple times.”
According to Steinle, James was able to take the teen to the ground, holding him there while James’ wife took the skateboard away and contacted the authorities. James, Steinle added, maintained control over the teen until deputies arrived at the scene.
In a statement to San Clemente Times on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 20, James said, “There is no crime that is as emotionally troubling as a crime of violence at one’s home.”
“This unprovoked attack was meant for my wife; I intercepted the assailant and in so doing, the attacker struck me multiple times in the head with a skateboard, resulting in serious head injuries,” he continued in a text message. “I know the assailant is in custody, and this is a matter for OCSD and the District Attorney. I am home with strict instructions for my recovery.”
James went on to thank the deputies who responded to Monday evening’s incident, as well as the other first responders whose work “was nothing short of phenomenal.”
“I will never forget being wheeled into the Trauma Center at Mission Hospital and the professionalism and care I received,” he said in his text. “I will recover and be back in the saddle in the New Year.”
James will be absent from the City Council’s meeting on Tuesday night.