It started with a spilled drink in a crowded bar called the La Jolla Brew House, not far from the bejewelled beaches of Bird Rock and Windansea.
It ended with a professional surfer sprawled in front of his mother's house, bleeding from a fractured skull.
Four days later, Emery Kauanui Jr. was dead and four of his acquaintances, all graduates of La Jolla High School, were in jail, charged with the first homicide in the seaside enclave since 2002.
"Turd "Bird Rock Bandits" Cravens, House, Yanke and Osuna
Surfers are generally mellow people...with one exception. Don't bogart their waves!
Outsiders or novice surfers trying to ride the waves off Windansea or Bird Rock are likely to encounter angry locals who've been known to protect their slice of the ocean with their fists. Author Tom Wolfe portrayed Windansea's youthful locals as arrogant, indulgent and delinquent in his 1966 essay “The Pump House Gang.”
But even before Wolfe's snide portrayal, Windandsea Surf Club symbolized the raucous side of beach culture, with boastful, boozy, bawdy promises made to riders from Bird Rock to Malibu that weren't always taken, or meant, in jest.
But as it turns out, the surf punks who jumped Emery Kauanui weren't surfers at all. They were just, well...punks:
Police and others examining Kauanui's death are pondering whether this traditionally harsh kind of “localism” may have been adopted on shore by certain young La Jolla toughs, who happened to surf relatively little, if at all.
The legal eagles who are defending these thugs are now trying to portray them as upstanding young men:
Meanwhile, letters submitted in court this week on behalf of Cravens, the 13th of 14 siblings, describe him as a young man of boundless humor who is tender and loving to his 52 nieces and nephews. He also sings and plays the ukulele.
Letters submitted on House's behalf portray him as a likable young man who is a volunteer coach of the lacrosse team at Muirlands Middle School and attends Mesa College in pursuit of a degree in business.
Taylor Bloom, a former La Jolla High cheerleader and a University of California Santa Barbara student, told the court in her letter that “I would trust him with my life.”
Police say the fight started between Kauanui and House, but the other three jumped in, punching and kicking the victim even after he was down.
One of the four assailants ran away, two took off in the SUV, and House stayed behind to look for a tooth he lost, Rooney said. A police officer arrived and House was immediately arrested.
Now I don't want to diminish Emery's death. He certainly did not deserve what he got. But details are now surfacing that Emery wasn't exactly an angel. In fact, his actions that night might have provoked a drunken House and the dirtbags he "rolled with" to retaliate:
One of several witnesses laying out the circumstances surrounding the homicide in the early hours of May 24 is Jennifer Grosso.
That night at the Brew House, Grosso said, Kauanui was on the dance floor, moving slowly to the music, when he accidentally spilled his drink on House.
Where this mess all began...the La Jolla Brew House
“I'm not so sure it was an accident,” Rooney said, noting that Kauanui was angry because House was talking to Grosso.
House and Kauanui argued; bouncers separated them and told them to leave. Police have a video shot by a bar patron but won't say what it shows.
Grosso, 20, said she drove Kauanui home in his gray Chevrolet Tracker about half-past midnight.
(An aside. Grosso is just 20 years old. What the hell was she doing in the Brew House that night to begin with?)
A neighbor saw Kauanui pacing outside his mother's house, arguing on his cell phone, about 45 minutes later.
It looks like Kauanui could have avoided the confrontation in the first place. But based on his past, Emery Kauanui was not one to avoid confrontation:
In July 2003, Emery Kauanui Jr., then 20, was charged in Florida with felony battery and spent 32 days in jail for throwing a beer bottle into a man's face.
A year later, Emery and a surfing buddy were involved in a “surf rage” incident at the Oceanside pier, police reported. Kauanui pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was fined $510. In the midst of that case, Kauanui was arrested for drunken driving, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a first-offenders program, which he failed to complete.
When he died, there was a warrant out for his arrest for violating conditions of probation.
Still...this was a senseless and stupid crime. Perhaps Emery Kauanui should have picked better "friends" than a bunch of morons whose lives circled around getting drunk and getting into fights. No doubt, his choice to hang out with these losers cost him his life.
But there are others who call themselves "Bird Rock Bandits". Listen up, you dweebs. This community will not put up with your garbage and will defend itself against any more thuggery. Take a long look at your buddies...a similar fate awaits you if you keep going down this path. And prison folk won't go easy on spoiled punks like you.
Yesterday's memorial for Emery...300 paddled out at Windansea where Emery's ashes were scattered by his mother.