LA MESA, Calif. — WARNING: This story contains a graphic image that some may find disturbing and video containing expletives and scenes of violence.
La Mesa police said this weekend they were looking into a disturbing video posted to Twitter that appears to show a local businessman groping a woman outside his store. The situation escalated Monday when reports on social media indicated that the man struck a news camera operator sometime in the afternoon and La Mesa police responded to the scene.
Video from another San Diego news station shows the business owner, Peter Carzis, striking several reporters and camera operators on Monday.
Witnesses reported that the business owner went into his business and locked himself inside following the incident with media personnel. He reportedly left before police officers arrived.
Early Tuesday morning La Mesa Police said they have arrested Peter Carzis on charges of felony vandalism and misdemeanor battery. Carzis will be booked into San Diego County jail once he is medically cleared.
Users in the "La Mesa Happenings" Facebook page identified the man in the videos as Peter Carzis the owner of Peter's Men's Apparel on La Mesa Boulevard. The video shared over the weekend appears to show him groping a woman outside the store in broad daylight.
In the tweet below from the La Mesa Police Department, you can see a woman being touched by a man. La Mesa police said they are aware of the video and will be following up with any potential victims.
Addie Pastore and her husband walked by Peter's store Saturday and she said Carzis was noticeably drunk.
"He spit at my husband and said [expletive] for no reason - blindly provoking him," she said.
Several La Mesa residents told News 8 the clothing store owner is making the whole area uncomfortable to visit.
Melanie Stowe said her last visit to Peter's store got very uncomfortable very fast after he touched her stomach and told her she needed to lose weight. Stowe said he commented on his customers that come in and are "morbidly obese" then proceeded to touch her arm and pinch it again saying she needed to lose weight.
La Mesa resident Matthew Wietzke said that for more than the past year, there have been mounting complaints against Carzis.
"He has been making comments to people, catcalling people, cussing at people," Wietzke told News 8. "It takes away from the family vibe of this place."
However, longtime customer Caraway Longville defended Carzis, whom she has known for more than five years.
"I have never seen him angry," Longville said. "He is a generous man, a kind man, a good man, a sincere man... He is defending himself. He's saying, 'Get away from here, get out of here.'"
Wietzke and others see this behavior far differently.
"It's kind of sad that it takes this to happen," he said, "for the police to finally do something about it."
News 8 reached out to the store owner several times but had not heard back as of Monday night.
La Mesa police confirmed they are investigating the spitting incident as battery and fondling as a lewd act - both are misdemeanors.
The La Mesa Police Department issued the following statement Monday night on their investigation into the incidents involving Carzis and his store:
"Regarding the incident with the media, Officers took a crime report for misdemeanor battery and felony vandalism. Mr. Carzis was no longer on scene when officers went to talk to him and his whereabouts are currently unknown, so he has not been arrested. We are currently attempting to locate him so we can continue the investigation.
Regarding the video from Twitter, The La Mesa Police Department has received two crime reports- one battery and one lewd act in public- regarding separate incidents that occurred on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 8239 La Mesa Boulevard (Peter’s Men’s Apparel). The Investigations Division has the reports and Detectives are conducting follow up on both cases. If anyone has information regarding these cases, they are encouraged to contact us at (619) 667-1400."
Councilwoman Christine Alessio said she too has had an uncomfortable run-in with Peter but because being yelled at inside a store isn't a crime there hasn't been anything police could do. She said she is hoping these latest incidents on the street will finally start leading to criminal charges and put an end to the fear surrounding this store.
A note has been distributed to nearby business owners warning them of what some say is unwelcome and inappropriate behavior. That note says, the owner of the men’s resale shop was “spitting on people walking by (assault), groping and/or body shaming store patrons, and as of 1/19/20, engaging in lewd sex acts documented on video, just outside his shop.” That note also advised all La Mesa business owners to come to the next La Mesa City Council meeting to make their voices heard.
News 8 also noticed a long list of negative Yelp reviews about the business owner with people also accusing him of so-called "creepy behavior" and catcalls, and body shaming. Some of the reviews date back to June of last year.
La Mesa City Council meets a week from Tuesday and several residents are expected to be there to make formal complaints about the business owner.