A lit cigarette might have been the spark that ignited a beach brawl involving a lifeguard that was caught on camera Thursday afternoon at Venice Beach, according to police.
Video of the assault shows the lifeguard climb down from his tower before he was repeatedly hit and knocked to the ground as several passers-by crowded around. The altercation began after someone flicked a lit cigarette into the lifeguard tower, witnesses told police.
At least one man tried to break up the fight as another was heard shouting "police are coming." Other lifeguards arrived at the scene during the struggle.
Two men and a woman were arrested in connection to the beating, according to Lt. Daniel Gonzalez of LAPD's Pacific Division.
"It's just disgusting, really," said surfer Kim Ternenyi. "It just makes it sad to come here because you've got a bunch of silly people doing things that just ruin it for everybody."
Another witness called it a street brawl with "a bunch of drunken people."
Officials said they believe the lifeguard was defending himself. The three suspects arrested on suspicion of battery on a executive officer were believed to be intoxicated, Gonzalez said. Lifeguards are considered peace officers under California penal code.
One of the suspects was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
"There was a woman, who was struggling with the lifeguard, who was screaming," said witness Chase Gilliland. "She appeared to be assaulting the lifeguard, he was trying to fend her off."
The woman repeatedly could be heard shouting that she had been "sexually harassed." As the lifeguard explained what had happened to colleagues after the initial altercation, the woman charged at him and the scuffle continued below the lifeguard tower.
"I've seen a lot of things, but this is a different one," Gilliland said. "Usually, lifeguards are just chill and try to keep the peace. But sometimes the tourists get a little rowdy in the summertime."
Family members of the suspects who spoke to NBC4 off camera dispute claims that the lifeguard was attempting to defend himself. Two of the three suspects posted bond Friday, but their identities were not immediately available.
The lifeguard was also taken to a hospital where he was treated for minor injuries and released. The lifeguard was placed on medical leave, lifeguard Capt. Kenichi Haskett told The Associated Press.
His name was not released because of the police investigation.
NBC4's Ryan Bourgard and Kelly Goff contributed to this report.