On Saturday night Crazy Fred's, a comic book and card collectible shop in La Mesa, was looted during a riot.
"The store was trashed, I don't know what all is gone, there was a lot of damage done, a lot of stuff was stolen," says Crazy Fred, the shop's owner and namesake. "They missed a couple of good things. They got a bunch else. I don't know, I'm still in the process of dealing with my life just stopping."
Crazy Fred opened his shop because ... well, exactly the reason you would think he opened it.
"I love Magic: The Gathering. It's my favorite game in the world. I love comic books. I love Batman. I love The Hulk," says Fred.
He shared his love by making his shop a lounge, another home for people to gather and play and read. Fred did not know this on Sunday morning but as he was sifting through the damage, help was on the way.
A GoFundMe page was set up by Sean Johnson, owner of Brute Force Games, another San Diego-area card and comic shop. The goal was $5,000 to help Fred rebuild. As of the writing of this story, just 26 hours after the campaign began, more than $15,000 had been raised.
Fred has helped countless people feel welcome in his store. Reading through the comments on the GoFundMe page confirms that. Receiving an outpouring of love like this can be almost overwhelming.
"I've never been at this end of it," says Fred. "I like being somebody that somebody can count on in regards to nerding. You know, comics, family, that kind of thing."
For all of us in San Diego County the last few weeks have been stressful and confusing. Crazy Fred is feeling that way, too. But adding in the destruction of his shop hasn't caused a hardened heart. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"I feel like I'm not up to the task of showing the gratitude that I need to. I don't feel like I'm capable of saying thank you in a way that sounds genuine enough to kind of keep up with it. I'm struggling to define an emotion that I've never felt before, in a way. It's hard to quantify good. I mean good. Not good feelings, but GOOD. There are so many people that are showing good right now that it just makes me really proud, in a way, of them. It makes me feel like ... I didn't realize people really cared that much and it really doesn't suck."
Now the question is: will Crazy Fred's stay open? It does not have an easy answer. Aside from the financial aspect of repairing and re-stocking, Fred has an auto-immune issue that caused him to lose 20% of his lung capacity. If he gets COVID-19 it would likely be fatal.
But as always he's worried about others.
"If I get sick I could pass it on to my wife and she works at a hospital in infant care. She takes care of babies and they could die," says Fred. "I've got to put everybody first, but me, and not be Crazy Fred in public for a while. It's just more important that I do something else right now and unfortunately the pandemic and the riots put a pretty big period at the end of that sentence."
Crazy Fred also says it's "possible" for the shop to re-open. And as any good Batman fan will tell you, the night is darkest just before the dawn. If the comic book community has anything to say about it the dawn is coming.
But if the store does have to stay closed Fred has another plan to help people. He says he will donate his entire collection of 25,000 comics to San Diego County children's charities.
Another selfless act from a different kind of hero.