Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – Former North Coast Journal Editor Tom Abate was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold by Arcata Police last night, April 14, and has been committed to Eureka's Sempervirens mental health facility.
According to APD dispatcher logs, police were called at 8:41 p.m. to the Fiesta Grill and Cantina on Janes Road on the report of a subject yelling and possibly under the influence.
A Fiesta Grill employee who asked not to be identified said two panicked men had entered the restaurant through a door in the the restaurant's rear area, where the bar is located. Shutting the door behind them, one exclaimed, "Call 911! He wants to hurt me and kill me!"
When the employee went to look for the alleged attacker, the two warned him, "Don't open the door!" After calling police, the employee said he then observed the individual wandering off northbound on Janes Road carrying something in his hand, which he speculated may have been a screwdriver.
"He looked like he was drunk and probably on drugs," the employee said, describing the alleged attacker's demeanor.
The APD dispatcher log from last night describes a "subject in the middle of the road, taking off his clothes."
The log states that the individual was staying at an unidentified location (the name of which has been redacted). There, the log says, "he picked up transients and gave them clothes and let them stay in his room."
Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said that since no arrest was made, he could not identity the individual per Government Code 6254(c), which protects personal privacy.
Chapman said that an officer discovered the subject flagging down vehicles at Janes and Heindon roads. The man was relocated out of traffic at the side of the road, where, Chapman said, he continued to "exhibit bizarre behavior."
The subject was then taken into custody as 5150 – a possible danger to himself or others – and conveyed to Sempervirens.
Chapman said police found no evidence of weapons or drugs in the subject's possession, nor was any intoxication detected.
Another witness who asked not to be identified but who was present at the scene during the incident, confirmed that the subject in question was Tom Abate. "Call the Journal," the witness recommended, evidently under the impression that Abate is still employed there.
Also citing privacy laws, Humboldt County Health & Human Services spokesperson Heather Muller declined to provide any information on whether Abate is a client at Sempervirens.
Abate, who co-founded the North Coast Journal in 1990, is a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter and Arcata Union columnist. He returned to the Journal in January, serving less than two months in the position before leaving employment there under undisclosed circumstances.
Abate's tenure at the Journal got off to a rocky start when he lost his composure during a radio interview with KSLG host John Matthews. His aggressive reportorial style struck some in the journalism community, as well as news subjects, as unusually abrasive.
Calls to Sempervirens staff and messages left for Abate there have not yet been returned.