Baby Attacked On G Street, Woman Arrested (Updated) – April 18, 2012
Note: Here is an updated version of the story which appears in this week’s Arcata Eye. The initial press APD press release follows the story. – Ed.
Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – For months, Molly Barnes, the woman known to many as “Dreadzilla” has wandered Arcata’s downtown, panhandling, hanging out and sometimes getting into fights and going to jail.
The woman’s erratic actions, such as talking to herself, flicking a knife around and repeatedly smoking cigarettes in the front entrance of Jacoby’s Storehouse, inspired many police calls and banishments from various downtown businesses.
Barnes’ inappropriate behavior was mostly just an annoyance to downtowners, though her all-black garb, large boots and generally downcast gaze offered a somewhat menacing countenance.
Last Wednesday, April 18, Barnes’ behavior took a violent turn, according to witnesses. At about 12:50 p.m., Arcata Police officers were called to the 800 block of G Street on the report of a female causing a disturbance.
Arriving officers observed what looked like a fight in progress. What they and other witnesses outside the Big Blue Café were seeing was Barnes being subdued by the unidentified father of a 16-month-old girl whom she had just allegedly kicked.
The child was taken to Mad River Community Hospital by ambulance. She suffered moderate injuries in the assault, which police later said were minor abrasions with no lasting physical injury. The girl was treated in the Emergency Room and released.
Barnes was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of Felony Battery, Child Abuse; Willfully Causing a Corporal Injury to a Child and Probation Violation. Her bail was set at $75,000 – $50,000 for the alleged assault and another $25,000 for probation violation.
The alleged baby-kicking came immediately after a bout of bizarre activity near the Transit Center, where she had been seen punching car windows and slashing tires on City vehicles.
Officers learned that just prior to the incident on G Street, Barnes had allegedly damaged vehicles at the Intermodal Transit Facility on Ninth Street. The damage was estimated at more than $400, making it a felony. Police said Barnes was positively identified through the use of video cameras in the area. Some of the tires had blood on them, but it was not known whether the blood was Barnes’. She was additionally booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility for a violation of Felony Vandalism and Probation Violation.
Downtown businessperson Terry Brill was the first to observe Barnes’ rolling rampage. While walking to lunch, he saw her punching car windows near the Arcata Ball Park. “I called out, ‘Hey!’ to make her quit,” Brill said. Barnes offered no response and continued punching the windows “really hard,” Brill said.
Brill called police, then trailed Barnes as she rambled around the Plaza. He said she went into Café Brio, came back out, then went down to Jacoby’s Storehouse for a few minutes and came back out, headed for G Street and looking “really angry.”
Police then arrived on the Plaza, and Brill pointed Barnes out to them. “As soon as I pointed ‘over there,’ she kicked the little kid,” Brill said. The girl’s mother tried to defend her child while the father punched her in the face.
Bloodied, Barnes ran off westward and made it as far as Eighth and H streets near Jacoby’s Storehouse when she was arrested.
She pleaded not guilty Friday, April 20 to charges of child endangerment, corporal injury to a child, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and attempted homicide
Just the latest incident
Barnes is well known to Arcata Police. Earlier that day, at 3:30 a.m., she had been arrested for theft of cigarettes at Don’s Donut Bar and probation violation, and had been booked and released.
Her arrest record in Arcata dates back to April 23, 2011, with four more arrests plus other contacts prior to last Wednesday. “It usually comes in as a white male causing a disturbance,” said APD Det. Lt. Todd Dokweiler.
He said Barnes had been arrested in the Yreka area in 2010 for alleged domestic violence and terrorist threats. In Arcata in June of 2011, she stabbed a man in front of the donut shop after an argument, was convicted of felony assault but released after time served in county jail. She had been free on probation for that assault up until last week.
“It’s very clear that she has some mental issues,” Dokweiler said. He said her full record will be documented with the case presented to the District Attorney’s Office, which will decide the final charges.
Dokweiler said Barnes is unlikely to be released prior to any trial or other court action. “Given the nature of the crime, I’m sure they’ll hold her until she sees a judge,” Dokweiler said.
John Shelter, former operations manager at the North Coast Resource Center, said that he recognized symptoms of severe schizophrenia in Barnes based on his crisis intervention training.
Shelter said Barnes suffered from multiple forms of hallucinations – visual, auditory and even tactile.
“She would see things that she was imagining,” he said.
As with many people afflicted with schizophrenia, Barnes believed that some kind of device had been implanted in her brain, and even showed Shelter the back of her head where she believed the unit had been surgically inserted.
He said she thought she was being stalked and harassed by an assailant for whom she had a name, and that she would sometimes believe that she was being molested by the imaginary nemesis.
“You could actually see it,” Shelter said. “She’d be pulling her shirt down and pushing away someone’s hand that was grabbing her breast.”
During periods of lucidity, Shelter said she was able to talk about her interests. “We had some great moments when she talked about her family,” he said. “Music was important to her.”
Consistent with her goth gear, she was into heavy metal music, Shelter said.
Downtowner Brandon Mellon said Barnes gave off a “spooky sad vibe,” but that he was able to converse with her on the Plaza at times. “I recall her talking to me about the area and people,” he said. “I talked to her about technology, phones and even politics for a few minutes once after giving her some coffee money.”
Shelter said there are others like Barnes who are seriously in need of treatment and trying to navigate the world with a head full of noise and imaginary enemies.
“Molly was a ticking time bomb, and we all knew that,” Shelter said. “We’ve got to do better.”
APD Press Release
On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, at approximately 12:50 p.m., officers from the Arcata Police Department were dispatched to the 800 block of G Street, on the report of a female causing a disturbance.
As the officers were arriving, they observed what looked like a fight in progress. They were advised that the female had kicked and injured a small child.
The female, 28-year-old Molly Barnes, a transient from the Placerville area, was initially subdued by the child’s father and was then taken into custody by APD officers. The struggle the officers had observed was Barnes being subdued.
The child, a 16-month-old female, was taken to Mad River Hospital by ambulance. The child suffered moderate injuries in the assault. She was treated in the Hospital Emergency Department and released.
Barnes was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility for Felony Battery, Child Abuse; Willfully Causing a Corporal Injury to a Child and Probation Violation.
During the course of their investigation, officers learned that just prior to the incident on G Street, Barnes had damaged vehicles at the City of Arcata Intermodal Transit Facility on Ninth Street. The damage caused there was estimated to be over $400. Barnes was positively identified through the use of video cameras in the area.
She was additionally booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility for a violation of Felony Vandalism and Probation Violation. She remains in custody.