A 35-year-old California man was eating at a steakhouse with his wife and 5-year-old daughter when he became the victim of a “random attack” that tore the family apart, police say.
Anthony Mele had his daughter in his lap Wednesday at 9:20 p.m. when Jamal Jackson, 49, walked into Aloha Steakhouse in Ventura, California, police said. Jackson was wielding a knife, police said — and just moments earlier, Jackson had been waving that knife around in front of the oceanside restaurant, intimidating people nearby, KEYT reports.
After Jackson entered the steakhouse, he approached Mele and stabbed him in the neck, police said. The family had just finished up dinner. Despite the fact that Mele was holding his daughter during the attack, neither the daughter nor Mele’s wife were injured. Mele, who did not know Jackson, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Mele died the next day from the injuries, police said.
“Anthony was a wonderful father to his young daughter, loving husband, son and brother,” Morgan Gutierrez wrote on a GoFundMe page created to help cover costs associated with Mele’s death. “Our hearts are severely broken for his daughter and family.”
After the incident, customers chased Jackson out of the restaurant and cornered him on a beach, police said. After receiving multiple 911 calls, officers arrived at the beach and ordered Jackson to the ground. He complied and was arrested, police said.
Meanwhile, other officers responded to the restaurant, police said. There, police found Mele suffering from from a life-threatening neck wound, and treated him until medical help arrived.
Jackson was taken to the Ventura County jail on murder charges, according to jail records. Bail was set at $550,000, and Jackson is scheduled to appear in court Friday, records said. Police described Jackson as a vagrant.
Police told the Ventura County Star they have interacted with Jackson on occasion in the past six months following disturbance calls. In March, Jackson was arrested on domestic battery charges, police said.
Jackson was previously convicted of felony unlawful sexual intercourse and felony burglary in the '90s, according to court records reviewed by the Star.
Mele’s mother posted on Facebook mourning her son’s death, KEYT reports. She also shared photos of her son and his young family.