San Diego Hotel Clerk Stabs Guest Before Fatal Plunge Off Pier

July 8, 2024

In a surreal sequence of events early Monday morning, a hotel desk clerk in La Jolla stabbed a guest before fleeing and driving his car off a pier near downtown's USS Midway Museum, according to San Diego police.

The suspect, 23-year-old Aaron Tran, had initially checked two guests into their room at The Shoal La Jolla Beach hotel on July 7. Later, he contacted them, claiming he needed to enter their room due to a water leak next door. Once inside, Tran handed his phone to one of the women, displaying a threatening message on the screen. As she looked up, he brandished a knife.

"He basically told her to not say anything, not to scream and that he had a knife and he would stab her if she did," explained San Diego Police Department Lieutenant Paul Phillips.  

A little after midnight on July 8, Tran stabbed one of the female guests in the upper chest near the collarbone before she managed to escape with her companion, who was unharmed. The injured woman was treated at a hospital and later released. Both female guests were reportedly in their 20s. 

In the meantime, Tran fled the scene in a Honda Accord, speeding through the streets while being followed by police before driving off the Navy Pier on North Harbor Drive and crashing into the water. A witness reported seeing the driver do "donuts" and rev the car's engine in a nearby parking lot before it sped toward the end of the pier and launched into the bay.

"At 80 miles an hour, they just went straight into the water," explained eyewitness Gio Martinez. "It did not stop. That thing was like 10 feet away from my brother. Everything was crazy. Everything happened really fast."

Tran Police believe Tran drowned while remaining in the car. He was discovered deceased in San Diego Bay with at least one self-inflicted stab wound after police recovered his body. A pocket knife was found at the scene.  

Tran had been employed at The Shoal La Jolla Beach hotel for about six months and had no known criminal history. It is believed he lived at home with his parents. The motive for the attack is still unclear, and police confirmed that the case remains under investigation.