Pool technician injured in knife attack
Altercation occurs in Beverly Hills following routine pool maintenance, worker hospitalized
A Southern California pool service technician has been hospitalized with possible internal bleeding following a violent encounter with a knifewielding stranger at the home of one of his customers.
At press time, Scott Rathjen, a 1-year employee of Elite Pool & Spa Service Inc., remained at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was examined for injuries he may have sustained during the Dec. 29 encounter.
The drama played out in a frantic telephone exchange between Scott and his employers, Lisa and Wayne Winkler, as police were summoned to the scene.
It was a rare stormy day in Los Angeles when Scott started his pool service route Wednesday morning. The day was cold and wet as he drove around Beverly Hills servicing one swanky pool after the next.
Turning off Mulholland Drive and Coldwater Canyon toward his next account, he drove up a long, narrow driveway and parked his truck in front of the garage. He’d never been to the house – he was covering for another Elite employee and he didn’t know the owner, but Scott had been told that the man wasn’t home because he was on vacation in Mexico.
It’s Show Time: Start with the Desert Show; Then, the Southwest Show; Next, the Pool & Spa Show; Then, the National Plasterers Conference; And finish with the Western Pool & Spa Show. The house was in a remote neighborhood, bordering Bel Air, with no other houses in sight. It was around two, and his work day was coming to an end. Finished with the pool, he shut the gate to the backyard.
There was a strange car parked directly behind his work truck with a smallish man in a hoody standing outside.
Scott was about to tell the man to leave – the stranger’s car had effectively blocked his own truck in the driveway – when all hell broke loose.
Brandishing a knife in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other, the man told Scott that he intended to break a window and enter the house.
Scott told the man he couldn’t do that, and then he called his bosses.
The Winklers were enjoying lunch in Agoura Hills when they received the most disturbing series of phone calls of their lives.
Scott told Wayne that he didn’t know what to do and that he couldn’t leave the house because the stranger was blocking the driveway.
On her own phone, Lisa called the police, who with maddening slowness, asked for a full description of the intruder, and the make, model, and license plate number of his car.
Lisa said, “Don’t worry about what he’s wearing. He’s got a knife!”
Wayne told Scott the police were on the way, but on Scott’s end, a tussle had ensued, and Scott, who is a big man in his late 30’s, had pinned the raving man’s arms to his body.
Lisa could hear the man’s lunatic yelling from Wayne’s phone.
On Lisa’s phone, the police told her to tell her worker to let the man go, and Lisa relayed the directive.
Scott said, “I can’t let him go; I’m afraid for my life,” and then he hung up.
Minutes passed as Lisa and Wayne waited helplessly to hear from Scott. When he called back, he was sprinting down Mulholland Drive, screaming that he needed the police immediately and that the man was running after him with a knife.
Lisa thought, “he is going to die,” she told Service Industry News. “My employee went to clean a pool, and now he is going to die.”
Running down the street, Scott told the Winklers what had happened since his last call. He had done what the officers told him to do – he had let the man go. Then, standing in front of his truck, Scott was turning to leave the driveway, when the man jumped into his car and smashed into Scott’s truck, which struck Scott and pinned him against the garage door. When the man put his car in reverse, Scott, who had slumped to the ground, got up and attempted to flee. As he tried to run, the man hit him again sending him flying through the air.
He told the Winklers this part of his story and then hung up.
Lisa said that she was shaking as they waited to hear from him again.
When he called back, Scott told them that he was hiding and that police were swarming the area, shotguns out.
Lisa called the police to explain that Scott and his pursuer were no longer at the house but then learned that the attacker had circled back and had broken through a window and barricaded himself in the customer’s home.
Following a brief standoff, the police were able to remove him from the house and place him under arrest.