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Federal class-action lawsuit filed against Bay Boys "surfer gang"

The notoriously territorial and aggressive group of surfers that dominate Lunada Bay known as the Bay Boys came under fire this week when two surfers filed a federal class-action lawsuit against them. The suit argues that the Bay Boys are a criminal street gang, and seeks a gang injunction based on grounds that the group is known to "confront, threaten to kill, assault, vandalize property, extort, and bring harm to other persons" and that they "uses the unpermitted Rock Fort [a seating area purportedly constructed and maintained by the Bay Boys in Lunada Bay] to conduct criminal activity."

Lunada Bay is a famous surf spot, known as "Southern California's premier big-wave break," according to the complaint. However, it also is one of the most infamous areas for localism, meaning local and resident surfers use intimidation tactics to keep out all outsiders. This group of local surfers, known as the Lunada Bay Boys ("Bay Boys") has a long history of supposed violence and aggression towards outsiders. This is the third civil-rights lawsuit filed against the Bay Boys since 1995. In 1996, a member of the Bay Boys paid $15,000 in damages to a victim and in 2002 another victim won an undisclosed settlement from a Bay Boy.

Local law enforcement have charged various Bay Boys members with criminal assault, but this federal class-action suit may be the first of its kind. If certified as a class-action, anyone who claims to be a victim of harassment at the hands of the Bay Boys over the years could join as plaintiffs. The suit was filed by El Segundo Police Officer Cory Spencer along with surfer Diana Milena Reed, who both claim to have been verbally and physically attacked by the Bay Boys. Spencer, along with other surfers, became accustomed to paying a security guard $100 to protect their vehicles from vandalism while they surfed and one of the Bay Boys once intentionally collided with Spencer in the water, slicing open Spencer's hand.

On another occasion, plaintiff Reed went to Lunada Bay to watch a friend surf, where she was approached by two Bay Boys who told her that she was sexy and made suggestive gestures towards her. One shook up a can of beer and sprayed her while making explicit comments, and then exposed himself to her. Reed had requested a police escort to the beach earlier that day, but the police had refused.

Palos Verdes Estates is also named as a defendant in the suit. The plaintiffs allege that "by its policies, customs, and practices" Palos Verdes Estates has allowed the Bay Boys to exclude outsiders from enjoying the beach. Additionally, the suit names Palos Verdes Estates Chief of Police Jeff Kepley as a defendant, alleging that he failed to enforce California law in relation to the Bay Boys criminal activity.

Damages sought include general, special, and exemplary damages as well as a declaration of the Luanda Bay Boys as a criminal street gang. Furthermore, the plaintiffs seek an injunction against the Bay Boys from congregating as a group in the area. Several of the surfers named in the lawsuit have criminal records - two were allegedly involved in the September beating of a Lunada Bay liquor store owner, and another defendant pleaded not guilty last week to attacking a Mets fan at a Dodger Game and was also arrested for a bar fight in Florida last year.

Kepley promised to step up efforts in patrolling the Lunada Bay area and keeping an eye on the Bay Boys last year, however the Bay Boys' legacy has made it difficult to do so. The complaint calls for Palos Verdes Estates and Kepley to investigate all complaints against the Bay Boys and actually prosecute these complaints as appropriate.

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