Holiday attack highlights need to stay alert

Brandon Trujillo, staff reporter

The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and laughter, but for one Cleveland student that was not the case.
With crime rates rising during the past five years, some communities are growing more and more unsafe. Proof of that was evident on Dec. 27, 2018, when junior Mel Santiago was harassed and then attacked while walking home after taking his driver’s knowledge test in Rainier Beach during the middle of the day.
“I looked up and someone’s just staring at me,” Santiago said. “When I passed him, he started following me and kicked me from behind … he kicked me again and knocked out my AirPod.”
As Santiago went to pick up the AirPod, the suspect tried to kick him in the face. Santiago managed to dodge the kick and push the man off. But as he stood up, the suspect swung again.
“At first, I thought it was a punch, but I lost control of my body for some reason,” said Santiago.
It was later determined that the man had stabbed Santiago and the knife hit his spine.
“I fell to the ground … I remember trying to get up, but my whole body was numb.”
Santiago was close to his house when the attack occurred.
“I had my guard down because I was like two seconds away from my house and look what happened,” he said. “If I was more aware, maybe something would have been different.”
Police arrested Ahmed Abdi-Dahar, 32, in connection to the attack.
Officer Brent Moore has been with the Seattle Police Department for 25 years and said he has only seen one case in his career where someone was randomly attacked for no reason.
“It’s very rare for something like that to happen, especially if you don’t know the person … and in that situation there’s pretty much nothing you can do.”
Moore there are ways for people to keep themselves safe.
“You can always take a self-defense course, you can carry pepper spray, but if you do not know how to use it, practice putting yourself in situations where you can have pepper spray.”
Moore also advises to stay away from parks at night or walking down dark alleys, even during the day. He suggested people carry keys in their hand and keep a key between their fingers.
“That’s a good self-defense mechanism.”
Here are more tips that can lower the chance of something happening to you:
Walk with confidence and purpose when you’re out by yourself, making sure to keep your head up and looking ahead of you.
Trust your gut when you’re alone. Your instincts are your best friend. If you are worried someone is following you, turn around. Let the person know you’re aware of their presence. Don’t head straight for your car or home, but go to a nearby store or restaurant – somewhere public and safe.
Carry a noisemaker on your keychain or pinned to your jacket that can be used to let those around you know when something is wrong.
Avoid hiding spots like parked cars, dark alleys and unlit corners of streets. These are all places that you should avoid when you’re out alone. Keep yourself in visible places on the sidewalk or street as much as possible.
Know what to do in the worst-case scenario. If you are faced with an uncomfortable or dangerous situation and you can escape, do so immediately. Only you can determine what you can or will do when faced with an attacker. Self-defense moves and tips can be found on various web sources or through community self-defense classes.