One evening last January around dinnertime, upper school visual arts teacher Arthur Tobias and his wife noticed a group of local gang members spray-painting a wall near his West Adams home.
When Tobias confronted them, one hit him in the head with a bottle, another drew a knife and a third shot him in the shoulder with a gun. The taggers fled when Tobias started shouting for police.
Two weeks ago, Tobias was notified that his application for victims compensation from the California state government had been denied based on the grounds that he had brought the attack on himself.
Tobias was originally hesitant to approach the taggers, he said.
“I was standing there thinking, ‘Should I take a gun? Should I go at all?’” Tobias said.
He decided to walk up to the taggers unarmed. He said it was ultimately better for him to go without a weapon.
“It was better for me to put myself up as an unarmed potential victim than anything else, and still try to do something,” Tobias said.
Later, as Tobias lay on an ambulance gurney, a policeman who was interviewing him suggested that he apply for the California Victim Compensation Program.
The program provides crime victims with monetary aid to help with medical bills and other consequences of certain crimes.
The letter from the Calif. VCP refused to provide services based on claims that he was negligent when he confronted the taggers.
“Our verification process revealed that your conduct was negligent and you had placed yourself in the position to be victimized when you left the safety of your home and confronted the multiple suspects,” the notice said.
Tobias was outraged.
“[When I was lying on the gurney] No one said we’re going to make a judgment about what you did, but that’s what they did but I think based on insufficient information,” Tobias said.
“Yes, I did know what I was doing, but I didn’t asked to be shot,” Tobias added. “They didn’t have to shoot me. I went up to them and asked them to stop what they were doing and they attacked me.”
Tobias, along with other members of his community, has been trying to improve his neighborhood for years through public service projects and the fostering of relationships with city officials.
“Through my efforts and other people’s: painting, cleaning, picking up garbage, contacting the police…we’ve made significant improvements in the neighborhood,” Tobias said.
This is partially what angered him, he said.
“Given the history of our neighborhood and what we’ve tried to do to improve the area, what I did was a little bit of an outlier but it wasn’t really that unusual,” Tobias said.
It promotes the wrong idea when the VCA says that he should have stayed in his home, Tobias said.
“This is what made me mad about this,” Tobias said. “Stay in the safety of your home, and you give your neighborhood over to the bad people if you have bad people willing to come into your neighborhood, which we do. There’s a lot of ‘training’ in place that tells you to stay in doors. But bullets go through walls.”
Tobias decided to appeal the claim and contact local news stations in the hopes of getting back at the VCP. A day after he received the letter, Tobias was interviewed by CBS 2 reporter Amy Johnson. He was featured on the 5 o’clock news later that evening.
Tobias was hesitant to tell people not directly related to the incident about what happened, but the letter was the last straw, Tobias said.
“I felt like I was being victimized all over again last Thursday,” Tobias said. “The gang shot me, and now [they’re] trying to shaft me. I don’t like being called a victim, but somebody violated my integrity in a way that had never happened before, and it wasn’t anything that I wanted to talk to people about.”
Even after being shot, Tobias has not considered moving out of his neighborhood.
“A cop who was interviewing me on the phone finally went, ‘Why do you live here?’ and I was sort of flummoxed,” Tobias said. “It’s my neighborhood, I live here.”
Police are still trying to locate the three taggers who attacked Tobias.