UPDATE: In June of 2014, Daniel Wright-Fresco was sentenced to serve 486 days in prison, and on Oct. 10, he was released. He was quickly found back at his post, playing the role of security guard at The Smell.
If you've ever been to downtown DIY venue The Smell
, chances are you've met Daniel Wright-Fresco. He's the 44-year-old homeless man who hangs in the alley out back every night, telling stories about how No Age
played his birthday party (which is true) and how he returned from a honeymoon vacation in Waikiki by bus (probably not).
Mostly, however, he focuses on his self-given role of unofficial venue security. Though his appearance can be scary to those who don't know him - he's short and thin, with dark shaggy hair and a penchant for baggy, found duds - he's genuinely protective of Smell patrons, many of whom are teenagers. He'll walk you to your car, he keeps the area (which borders Skid Row) clear of pan-handlers, and he enforces the venue's strict no-alcohol policy. He's completely sincere about all of it.
"He's an asset to the place," says Jim Smith, owner of the Smell. "It makes him feel good to be out there protecting people, providing a service."
So, when news recently
broke that Daniel had been arrested, concern rippled through the Smell community.
#FREEDANIEL hashtags appeared on the Smell's Facebook page
, local bands proposed a benefit concert to help raise money for his bail, and fans scrambled to find him an attorney. Confusion abounded. What happened?
Wright-Fresco is something of a mysterious figure, and, as he's being held at the Twin Towers correctional facility downtown, we were unable to speak to him. But at his hearing March 5, the story came into focus.
Turns out Wright-Fresco was arrested February 19, after allegedly threatening a man named Ignacio Nava at the used car dealership where Nava works, near the Smell.
According to Nava's testimony, given in court with the aid of a Spanish-language translator, Wright-Fresco had been loitering around the dealership for months, which Nava and others believed to be a potential deterrent to business. Wright-Fresco, however, seemed to be serving the dealership's customers in the same way he does for kids at the Smell.
In any case, the day of his arrest, Wright-Fresco was confronted by Nava after the former opened the door to a car for a female customer. Nava told Wright-Fresco to leave. But Wright-Fresco asked to speak with Nava's manager and said to him, according to Nava: "Motherfucker, you want to know what it's like to fuck with a Salvadorian?"
Then Wright-Fresco allegedly opened his shirt, revealing a knife tucked into the waist of his pants. The receptionist called the police, and he was arrested and charged with felony "criminal threats," in essence the crime of putting someone in fear. His trial is set for March 19.
Over the years, Wright-Fresco has become part of the culture of the Smell....