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Son of Man Killed Under Santa Monica Pier Sues City
 

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By Jorge Casuso

September 5, 2019 -- A lawsuit was filed Wednesday charging the City and other parties with negligence in the death of a San Gabriel man assaulted by a serial killer under the Santa Monica Pier last year.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of the minor son of Steven Ray Cruze Jr., whose body was found in the early morning hours of September 20 on the sand underneath the wooden landmark.

The suit -- which also names the Santa Monica Pier Corp., the City of Los Angeles and the state of California as defendants -- alleges the parties were negligent and created a dangerous condition that led to the killing, according to the California News Wire Service.

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The suit charges that "the defendants regularly allow overcrowding on the pier during concerts, forcing some in attendance to take refuge under the pier and on the beach without providing adequate security," according to the wire service report.

Cruze's body was found after Wednesday night's Twilight Concert Series on the pier featuring an "Island Vibes" theme.

The series had been scaled down last year year to control overflow crowds ("Santa Monica Pier Concert Series Succeeds in Drawing Much Smaller Crowds," September 13, 2018).

Police said Cruze was killed by a blow to the head.

He was initially identified by police as homeless, but family members said Cruze was sleeping under the pier after an overnight fishing trip ("Homicide Victim Found Under Santa Monica Pier Was Not Homeless, Authorities Say," September 24, 2018).

Cruze's aunt, Jennifer Smith, told City News that he often slept in a hammock in the Santa Monica area after fishing trips that lasted several days.

Police subsequently tied the killing to a string of eight assaults -- four of them fatal -- carried out in Santa Monica and Los Angeles by Ramon Escobar ("Suspect Arrested for Assault Monday in Santa Monica Could Be Responsible for String of Murders," September 25, 2018).

The 49-year-old deported convict from El Salvador, who himself was homeless, beat his victims in their sleep with a wooden bat during a crime spreee that took place between September 8 and 24.

Police said his motive appeared to be robbery. Cruze was the only victim who was not homeless.

Two of the other Santa Monica victims were also attacked on the beach but survived. The fourth local victim, was beaten to death Downtown.

Escobar is charged with four counts of murder, eight counts of attempted murder and six counts of second-degree robbery.

A mental competency hearing for Escobar is scheduled October 17.


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