A video posted online shows an altercation between the owner of Redwood Bar and Grill, Christian Frizzell, and a fairly well-known homeless man in the area, Frank Chiari.
Dylan Doren says he was riding his skateboard down the street toward a bus stop on Aug. 22 when he saw Frizzell and Chiari fighting. He did not see what precipitated it. He says he saw Frizzell repeatedly hit Chiari with the palm of his hand. Doren immediately pulled out his iPhone and began filming.
“It was had to watch because I know Frank,” Doren says. “Everyone knows Frank. They know that he’s nonthreatening and nonconfrontational. He’s just a homeless guy that collects cans and shit.”
“Hey, leave him alone!” Doren can be heard saying on the video, cars honking in the background.
“Get your shit and get the fuck out of here,” Frizzell tells Chiari.
Still standing in the street, Frizzell calls out to Chiari, “It's open hands dude. Open hands, bitch! You're a bitch, dude. You're a bitch of a human!”
More scuffling ensues. Frizzell can then be heard saying, “It's fucking 12 years of your fucking shit, dude!”
Doren, still filming, then confronts Frizzell, asking him, “What do you think you just did? By hitting him?”
“What did I do?” Frizzell asks. “I protected myself.”
After the fight, Frizzell went back into the Redwood. Doren called the cops and says that while waiting for them, Frizzell re-emerged, confronted Doren and started filming him. Doren says Frizzell asked him, “What race are you? I know what race I am. I'm American.”
An earlier, edited version of the video posted by Doren accused Frizzell of “bigotry and racism.” That version has since been taken down, and Doren has since posted an unedited version.
Frizzell did not return our phone calls requesting an interview. He did post a statement through the Redwood's Facebook page:
My name is Christian Frizzell and I am embarrassed and saddened by the video I was sent this morning.
Frank has been coming around harassing my clients and employees for a decade. He once followed one of my female employees home.
I asked Frank to leave and when he wouldn't it got physical. Frank hit me, ripped my shirt spit on me and all I did was try to escort him away. I never attacked any one. I defended myself and restrained him in an effort to prevent any escalation of a tense situation . It's never fun to have to forcefully remove someone from your business.
The police responded to the scene and when they saw the physical evidence of the struggle asked if I wanted the suspect arrested. I declined.
I am not a bigot or a racist. I'm a small business owner who is a father of four and the allegations and alleged statements in the video are false accusations.
The Redwood is a tiny bar and club with a pirate theme, frequented by employees of the Los Angeles Times. A few blocks away is another club, the Smell, where Chiari is also a fixture. The Smell posted the earlier version of the video on Facebook, with the following comment:
Hey folks, this disturbing video was just brought to our attention. The “homeless senior citizen” in the video is Frank Chiari, whom many of you may know as the gentleman who sweeps up our alley and collects our bottles and cans each night. This chilling, ugly incident apparently took place the night before last, one day after Frank's birthday.
I am told that Frank, though bruised up and shaken, is doing ok after this horrifying incident. But if you see him around, please offer him your support and best wishes.
As we have all witnessed in recent months, we are living through some pretty horrifying times right now. There seems to have been unleashed a deep seeded darkness in our collective psyche that is leading our society down a very disturbing path.
Let's all please try to be safe out there, and do our best to exhibit empathy and solidarity with each other. Now more than ever is it critical that we come together as a community to protect and support one another.
In the comments section, opinion over the incident appeared divided. One man wrote:
I worked at the Redwood for many years and Frank has always had problems with Christian. Frank has slashed Christian's tires and spit at him and they have had altercations before. I trusted Frank to run errands for me until he took my money about 6 months ago and he avoided the area around the Redwood until apparently yesterday. He has been asked repeatedly to not accost the people and bands loading in and out for money. He once overheard a conversation about a get together at my house, learned my home address and came to my house one evening when I was not home and pounded on my door and peered in the windows and frightened my girlfriend who was sick and home alone. I believe that this video does not show the entirety of the truth of the incident and that the allegations are blown out of proportion. Despite the fact that I am no longer there, I am confident that this was not an unprovoked attack on a poor elderly homeless man.
And a woman wrote: “Frank has followed me to my car on multiple occasions and has threatened my friends in the past. This video is bullshit.”
Other commenters defended Chiari as a gentle but troubled homeless man, a 20-year fixture in downtown L.A., and wondered why security wasn't asked to handle the incident rather than the Redwood owner.
“All Frank ever does is ask for a dollar for a hot dog and if you say no he says no problem or thanks anyway,” another commenter wrote. “He has never ONCE been aggressive. Is the owner of the Redwood going to fight every homeless person in downtown?”
When Frizzell was interviewed by BlackBook in 2009, he had this to say on the subject of downtown L.A.: “I grew up in Los Angeles, and downtown always had a majestic quality to it. There is something about the poorest of the poor being next to some of the wealthiest of the wealthy that nurtures dynamic creativity.”