Lawsuit seeks to end "gang mentality" of infamous California surfers

A new lawsuit claims a group of local surfers is harassing outsiders who try to ride the waves at a highly desirable piece of surfing real estate south of Los Angeles.

The area is officially open to the public, but stories of confrontations in Lunada Bay go back decades, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans.

"You guys lost or something? Stay away from this area, this bay right here."

That's the welcome two British reporters from the Guardian newspaper got when they tried to surf at Lunada Bay last May. They went undercover with video, and were warned about being taunted by the "younger kids."

Lunada Bay is known for its breathtaking views and an infamous group of local surfers - known as the "Bay Boys" - who fiercely protect their precious surf spot.

Last October, a woman recorded video of a surfer getting punched and turned it over to police. These were not isolated incidents.

Cory Spencer is an alleged victim. He is also a police officer.

"I was ran over in the water. I was injured," Spencer said. "I finally got up the courage after 32 years of surfing to come and surf here and the rumors came alive and it's time to end this gang mentality here. This is a gang. They do meet all those definitions. There's no denying that."

Spencer and the Guardian's undercover video are now at the center of a lawsuit that's seeking a gang injunction against the Bay Boys. It would ban them from coming to Lunada and fine them for preventing access to a public beach.

"This beach has been stolen from the public," said attorney Vic Otten, who represents Spencer and another surfer suing the Bay Boys. He is confident he has the evidence to prove that they are a gang.

"Rarely do lawyers have evidence like the tape from the two British guys that's cited to my lawsuit," Otten said.

He also has video from 1995 when a local news station captured one of the Bay Boys saying, "You won't surf here again, boy."

The lawsuit claims local police have done little to stop the problem. The Guardian video shows the response the British reporters got from the Palos Verdes Estates police after their encounter.

"We know all of them. They're infamous around here," an officer says. "If you felt uncomfortable, you know, then don't do it."

In a statement, the city of Palos Verde Estates told "CBS This Morning" that the police department "takes seriously its public safety mission and has, and will continue to monitor and enforce the laws in Lunada Bay."

When "CBS This Morning" took our cameras there, a local officer stopped by with some advice.

"We can't send officers down there all the time, you know... but if something happens, you have a cell phone too," an officer said.

"I would never tell someone you might have to protect yourself or you might get hurt. I would try to take care of the problem, so you don't. That's what we're supposed to do, right?" Spencer said.

We tried to contact the defendants in the lawsuit, but none of them wanted to talk.

But many who live near Lunada Bay say the lawsuit is blowing everything out of proportion.

"It's not a gang, it's not a gang. You have a couple of bad apples out here, causing trouble," said resident Frank Ponce. "Get rid of the few bad apples."

But Otten disagrees.

"It's not a few - there's easily 40 bad apples and probably more," Otten said.

We watched as one of the eight defendants currently named in the suit was served with court papers.

Otten said he plans to add more defendants to the suit in the coming weeks and is seeking class action status - a powerful legal tool he hopes will break up the Bay Boys for good.