After a man was arrested on Alamitos Beach for allegedly going on a stabbing spree Monday, some headlines started inaccurately blaring that the suspect was homeless.
That incorrect information was based on a statement from police Monday morning saying the suspect in custody was “believed to be a person experiencing homelessness,” a conclusion police say they based on preliminary witness statements.
They were wrong, but the narrative had already taken hold.
In reality, Yohance Sharp, the 21-year-old suspect, lived in an apartment on Lime Avenue near where the violent spree began. According to his girlfriend, Yessenia Partido, the couple had been living there for months, and he’d been living stably until going off his medication for schizophrenia.
Long Beach police provided the preliminary, inaccurate assessment that Sharp was homeless because they wanted to share as much information as they could in a rapidly evolving situation, and “it is a question we are often asked from both media and our community when discussing public safety,” LBPD spokesperson Allison Gallagher said.
After putting out that information, police confirmed Sharp’s home address, but they did not clarify or correct it until the Long Beach Post asked about it on Thursday—although Gallagher pointed out that they called Sharp a resident of Long Beach in a statement Monday night.
In the meantime, the inaccuracy continued to spread, and one Long Beach city official went even further, tying the stabbing spree not only to homelessness but specifically to homeless people riding the A Line Metro train that ends in Downtown.
“When the unhoused are forced to get off at the end of the line, they are left without services, which forces them to roam the streets and makes them more vulnerable to commit crimes,” Councilmember Mary Zendejas told the Metro’s Executive Management Committee at a Thursday meeting, where members voted to study the issue. “Our community is suffering the consequences and are continuously victims of violent crimes and burglaries, including a stabbing spree that happened earlier this week that resulted in a death.”
City officials have not provided any evidence that Sharp rode the A Line. Zendejas did not immediately respond to a call Friday morning asking why she made that connection.
Sharp is mentally ill, according to his girlfriend, and he did appear disheveled when police arrested him, but the nuances of people’s individual struggles and living situations don’t seem to matter to city officials, said Christine Barry, a local homeless advocate.
It’s easier, she said, for them to lump together homeless people, mentally ill people and criminals.
“They do not fundamentally care about homeless people,” Barry said. “There is no sense of urgency in helping these people.”
Sharp was charged Wednesday with murder, five counts of attempted murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of murder in connection with the stabbing spree, which police now say spanned two days and includes eight victims.
But incorrect information about him being unhoused is continuing to spread, with some headlines about the charges still calling him homeless.
Councilmember Cindy Allen, who previously criticized police for not alerting the public more quickly about the stabbing spree, said the misinformation is contributing to a perception that homeless people from the A Line are responsible for crime problems Downtown.
Allen says that may well be the case, but she wants facts before jumping to that conclusion. Meanwhile, she said, “This narrative has spun out of control.”
Executive editor Melissa Evans contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information from the Long Beach Police Department about why they initially said Sharp was believed to be homeless.