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Homeless Attack in Santa Monica Makes International Headlines

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By Jorge Casuso

October 19, 2021 -- An attack by a homeless woman in Santa Monica last week made national and international news Tuesday after it was revealed that one of her three victims was a reality TV contestant.

Michelle Yi, who appeared on season 16 of “Survivor” in Fiji, was stabbed and beaten on her way to teach a pilates class at her studio in Santa Monica at around 6 a.m. Thursday, according to the reports.

The incident took place around 2nd Street and Arizona where officers responded to a disturbance of the peace radio call that "indicated a female was carrying a baton and hitting cars," police said.

"When officers arrived on scene they witnessed a female suspect hitting a male victim with two hollow metal pipes," said Lt. Rudy Flores, the Police Department spokesman.

Officers discovered two other victims had been randomly attacked by the suspect, including Yi, who "in addition to being struck by the metal pipe. . . was also 'poked' by a reciprocating saw blade that officers found on the ground," Flores said.

"Yi sustained an approximate 1 inch laceration to her right eyebrow area from a blow from the pipe," he said. "She drove herself to a local hospital for treatment."

The two other victims "sustained scratches to the face and head area" and refused medical treatment, Flores said.

Responding officers immediately arrested Alexadria Diaz, a homeless woman from Fresno who had been reported missing.

Diaz, Flores said, "suffers from mental illness, and was possibly off her medication."

Yi's attack was first reported Saturday night in a blog posted by Canadian journalist Murtz Jaffer, who bills himself as the "World's Foremost Reality TV Expert."

Jaffer, who’s a friend of Yi, said he believed the attack was racially motivated, noting another one of the three victims was Japanese.

"Some unfortunate breaking news," Jaffer wrote. "My friend
@pipermichelle from #survivor #survivorfiji was attacked on Thursday morning in Santa Monica.

"The attack appears to be an anti-Asian hate crime and she was rushed to the hospital after being stabbed, and beaten with a metal pipe."

In a subsequent interview with the local CBS affiliate Jaffer explained, “It’s one of those things where it’s like I wasn’t surprised, which speaks volumes given the number of incidents like these that are happening across the U.S.”

At 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, "People" magazine posted a story headlined "Survivor: Fiji Contestant Michelle Yi Attacked and Beaten by Homeless Woman in Early Morning Assault."

The magazine interviewed Yi, who described the attack in detail.

"She was yelling all sorts of things like, 'You stole my identity' and, 'You're a prostitute,'" Yi, said. "Santa Monica has a homeless problem, and I've dealt with this type of thing before. So I told her, 'Ma'am, you can't be here. You need to leave.'"

According to People, "That's when the woman suddenly lunged at her with a knife in one hand and a metal baton in the other."

"She stabbed me in the left bicep," Yi said. "And then she hit me on the right hand with the baton. My Apple Watch shattered."

But according to the report, "The assailant didn't relent, smashing her over the head with the baton."

"My face split open," Yi said. "Blood was everywhere."

People reported that "her students rushed over and the woman fled; Yi said both she and one of the students tried to call 911 but were told operators were 'currently busy,' so they had to flag down a police car on the street instead.

"Yi was taken to hospital and examined; she suffered no breaks but required several stitches," the article said.

By Tuesday night, reports of the incident had appeared in dozens of news and entertainment sites across the globe -- from New York and Canada to London to Australia.

Most mentioned Santa Monica and the homeless attacker in the headline. London's Daily Mail featured a gallery of homeless people sleeping on bus benches and beach tents, most of them outside the city.

An article in News Nation USA displayed a picture of the blue 2nd Street sign on the street where the incident took place in Santa Monica.

On Tuesday afternoon, Santa Monica police announced that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office had filed three counts of assault with a deadly weapon against Ms. Diaz on Monday.

Anyone with additional information pertaining to this incident should call the Criminal Investigations Division at 310-458-8451 or the Santa Monica Department’s Watch Commander (24 hours) at 310-458-8427.

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