Third-year UCSB student Peter Cho was charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and destroying or concealing evidence following a fight outside of Freebirds early this past Sunday.
UC Police Department officers and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to the 800 block of Embarcadero Del Norte around 4 a.m. Upon arrival, law enforcement officials spotted two victims and a number of witnesses, with one victim suffering a total of six stab wounds to his side, back and wrists. The victim was taken to Cottage Hospital for surgery to treat life-threatening injuries while the second victim, who suffered blunt force trauma to the head, was treated at the site of the incident.
Witnesses described an Asian male as the suspect; soon after, 20 year-old Cho was arrested at a nearby residence — where the knife was also found — and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $500,000. The stabbing victim is currently in stable condition.
Freebirds employee and eyewitness Alvaro Perdomo said he had just finished work around 4 a.m. when he saw five Asian men — estimated to be 18 to 19 years old — exit a white, four-door sedan in the Freebirds parking lot. Perdomo said he saw the five men loitering in the parking lot and thought nothing of it but then heard screams and saw all five group members attacking two male customers.
“I saw the two Hispanic males go into the restaurant to buy food and when they came out, the five guys were waiting for them outside. It was then that the fight began — five against two — and the five started hitting the two Hispanics really hard,” Perdomo said in a translated interview.
Perdomo said the two were unable to stop their attackers, one of whom was wielding a “seven to 10-inch knife, about as thin as your finger.”
“The two victims tried to protect themselves but they couldn’t because it was five against two, so they ran away and the five guys chased them out into the street and they were fighting in front of the restaurant on the street,” Perdomo said.
Perdomo said he then called the police as other employees came out of the restaurant and tried to verbally intervene from the restaurant’s patio before the five assailants ran to the car where a driver was waiting for them.
“All the employees came outside and started yelling at them to break up the fight but we couldn’t really do anything because we have an employee policy that we can’t interfere with fights so we had to just wait for the police to get there,” Perdomo said.
An eyewitness who requested to remain anonymous said Freebirds employees were successful in bringing the altercation to a halt.
“I was just sitting in front of Freebirds at 4 a.m. They were punching each other and the workers at Freebirds came over and broke it up,” the anonymous source said. “There was blood all over the sidewalk and everyone was really scared. It all happened really fast.”
Once the attackers fled the scene, Perdomo said the employees ushered the two victims inside the restaurant in case the assailants returned. When police arrived minutes later, Perdomo said they took the two victims outside, sat them on the sidewalk and began to question them — without calling an ambulance.
After about 20 minutes of questioning, Perdomo said he intervened and asked the policemen to bring medical attention to the stabbing victim, who was “very pale and trembling and looked very ill.”
“By the time the ambulance arrived it had already been around 40 minutes since everything had occurred,” Perdomo said. “[The stabbing victim] was losing a lot of blood and I really wanted to help him but the only thing I could do was go grab rags so I could put pressure on the wounds.”
After the stabbing victim was taken to the hospital, police officers closed off the intersection of Pardall Road and Embarcadero del Norte and asked Freebirds employees to leave the blood-spattered benches, patio and street alone as they still needed to collect evidence.
At around 5 a.m., Perdomo said police were still questioning the second victim, who had abrasions on his head and was badly bruised. The pair and their female friend, who witnessed the altercation, had come from Los Angeles to visit friends in Isla Vista, who told the trio that they couldn’t go back to L.A. without trying Freebirds.
Later on Sunday morning, police returned to the restaurant to retrieve a video of the incident captured by a Freebirds security camera. Perdomo said he feels all five assailants need to be taken into custody and penalized for their crimes.
“They should all be charged with something since they were all hitting the victims. They should be held accountable,” Perdomo said. “Though there was only one person who stabbed the victims, all the attackers should receive some form of punishment.”
While the anonymous source speculated that the incident may have been gang-related, claiming that they “heard there are some ongoing issues between the gangs right now,” Perdomo said he did not believe it was connected to gang activity.
“[The assaulters] were dressed normally like any other student; I didn’t see any tattoos,” Perdomo said. “They looked like sane students but I don’t think they’re sane.”
Second-year communication and film major Kim Vo said she was surprised to learn that Cho was the assailant, describing him as friendly and easygoing.
“I talked to him every time I saw him. I said ‘hi’ every time I saw him. He was a nice and cool guy. He made me laugh a lot,” Vo said. “I had no idea it was him until they told me. I was like ‘No way! He did that?’ … I didn’t see any signs from him that he would do that stuff.”
Patrick Kulp, Han Bae and Carissa Quiambao contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of November 20th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.