A disabled man with a cane and a former security guard tackled a man who police say brandished a knife and ran toward people inside the building Thursday morning in a chaotic scene at the city’s Multi-Service Center.

The assailant, identified by police as Tony Chism, 50, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

Jonny Fair, who helped subdue the attacker, said he was at the Multi-Service Center on the city’s westside to seek assistance after having lost his temporary housing earlier this week. In an interview, he said the atmosphere in the building at around 9 a.m. was normal and busy when he began to hear commotion coming from the front desk.

At first he said he shrugged it off.

“You’re hearing this all the time… it’s a very agitated environment,” he said of the center. “You don’t normally hear it break out into pure panic, chaos and screams. It was deafening.”

In a split second at 9:33 a.m., Fair said, the waiting area was strewn with chairs and people’s belongings as they fled the building in a hurry. The assailant, he said, had pulled out a large kitchen knife and was swinging it around with full force as he paced across the room.

Fueled by adrenaline and an intense feeling of doom, Fair began to hit the man over the head with his cane screaming, “Stop. You can’t do this.” He could see the confusion, anger and frustration in his eyes.

As the assailant swung his knife and ran toward a security guard on duty who had fallen down, another man, Destry Nickyle Anderson, tackled the man to the ground. Together, Fair, Anderson and the security guard were able to take the knife from the man’s hand and hold him down until police arrived shortly after.

According to police, Chism was transported to the hospital before being arrested. Records show he was also arrested last month in North Long Beach on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and second degree robbery and was released two days later.

The morning after the incident, Anderson was back at the Multi-Service Center as usual. An ex-security guard from West Virginia, he relocated to Long Beach three weeks ago and is now trying to find a job and permanent housing. He pointed to a small scratch he had sustained on his forearm after tackling the assailant to the ground. “It was like a Halloween horror story,” he said.

Fair, who suffers from spinal stenosis and a degenerative bone disease, was in physical pain recalling the moments of that morning once the adrenaline wore off. “I wasn’t trying to hurt him,” he said, but he was trying to stop him from hurting anyone else.

Fair had lived in Long Beach for many years before becoming homeless in 2019. A former musician, Fair used to perform in venues across the United States but left that life behind in 2012 after the fast-paced lifestyle no longer aligned with his moral beliefs.

Since then, he has tried to rebuild his life with no avail. Throughout his experience living on the streets, Fair said he can understand the pain that the assailant must have been going through to trigger his violent response.

“You see these same people daily. Some of them sometimes, they snap,” he said.

“It’s the stress and pressure of every day, being on the streets and not knowing where you’re going to stay,” he said. “You try to be as unobtrusive as possible and not be seen or heard and you kind of become an invisible citizen. So I understood his pain.”

The resources in places like the Multi-Service Center are limited, sometimes you get the help you need or somewhere to stay and sometimes you don’t, Fair said. “After a while you don’t know the difference of being indoors or out.”