by the National Coalition for the Homeless
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ASHINGTON, DC. — Hate Crimes Against the Homeless: America’s Growing Epidemic of Violence is a shocking new report on the growth of bias-motivated crimes of hate against America’s homeless populace.
The report, released on August 16, 2010, by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), documents an epidemic of hate crimes around the nation, including: dousing homeless people with gasoline and setting them aflame; rape in exchange for shelter; lethal beatings and shootings; spray-painting and stomping people to death while they’re sleeping; and gang initiations involving stabbings and beatings of homeless victims.
This past year has the horrifying distinction of being among the deadliest in the 11 years since the NCH began tracking and interviewing thousands of homeless individuals impacted by hate crimes.
With 43 known deaths, 2009 was the most lethal year for attacks on homeless people since 2000. Violence against homeless people occurred from coast to coast, in virtually every area of the nation.
Although NCH has attempted to carefully document the number and severity of attacks, the report also acknowledges that since the homeless community is treated so poorly in our society, many more attacks go unreported, or are ignored. These crimes are believed to be motivated by the perpetrators’ bias against homeless individuals or their ability to target homeless people with relative ease.
“On behalf of any and every victim of bias-motivated crime, we must remain committed to the cause of justice, honest stewards of truth and capable recorders of the endless narrative of hate,” said NCH Executive Director Neil Donovan.
The number of unhoused individuals targeted by hate has consistently grown over the past decade. This year’s report draws an especially gruesome and disturbing trend in the frequency and manner of the offenses. Violent, often fatal, attacks on homeless Americans now outnumber all other categories of hate crimes combined. Over the past 11 years, there are more than double the amount of homeless hate crime deaths than there are for all other protected classes.
In all, 1,074 reported acts of bias-motivated violence have been committed against homeless individuals between 1999-2010. In many cases, the hate crimes were lethal. Nearly one in three attacks ended in death, and a total of 291 homeless individuals have lost their lives as a result of the attacks.
The data compiled by NCH also suggests that the perpetrators of these attacks often are young men and teenaged boys. In 2009, 80 percent of the attacks against homeless people were committed by people under 30 years of age, and 98 percent of perpetrators were men.
The NCH report includes descriptions of each case of violence against homeless individuals by housed individuals. The report also describes legislation that would help protect homeless people, and recommendations for advocates to help prevent violence against the homeless.
These crimes of hate are committed against a community of vulnerable individuals who are at risk because they live outside or in public spaces. Many of our cities do not have adequate, affordable housing or shelter space to meet the need, and as a result, a large percentage of the homeless populace is unsheltered.
The following case descriptions show the frequency of these year-long assaults and murder. These harrowing descriptions of violent attacks and hate crimes are a wake-up call for local officials, the federal government — and every citizen concerned about the deadly acts of cruelty directed at the poorest among us.
Serial Rapist and Killer Targets Homeless Women
January 1, 2009—October 1, 2009: The murders of at least 11 homeless women may finally be solved after an Ohio court allowed prosecutors to present testimonial evidence linking Anthony Sowell, 50, to the murders. At least four women who survived his advances will testify against him, adding assault to the list of allegations that includes aggravated murder, rape, and corpse abuse.
The attacks took place over a two-year period of 2007-2009, and all his victims were homeless women. Sowell may have been able to evade police for an extended period of time because many of his victims were not reported missing until months after they were killed. Authorities said Sowell lured homeless women into his home where their remains were found last fall. At least six of the murders occurred between January 1 and October 1, 2009. Sowell has pled not guilty and faces the death penalty if convicted.
Homeless Man Brutally Stabbed to Death
January 19, 2009: Kyle Morgan, age 24, was accused of the brutal murder of a 28-year-old homeless man on January 19, 2009. Although the individual attack seemed random, Morgan had planned to attack a homeless man for some time. The homeless man died of multiple stab wounds and a collapsed lung.
Morgan was captured after he left the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. Soon after an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest, Morgan fled to Tennessee where he hit two pedestrians on the sidewalk when he attempted to flee from Tennessee State Troopers.
Homeless Man Killed By Massive Head Injury
Santa Barbara, California
February 3, 2009: Ross Stiles, 43, died at Cottage Hospital from a massive head injury, according to police. Stiles was a homeless man who lived in Santa Barbara. Friends of Stiles told police they saw two males confront Stiles, eventually smashing a bottle over his head before fleeing. Doctors attempted to operate in order to reduce “massive swelling” in his brain but were too late.
Robert Evans, a friend of Stiles, lived and camped with Stiles for many years. “He was a real nice guy,” Evans said. Stiles suffered from severe depression and pain resulting from a disability. Santa Barbara closed his case in March but then reopened it in May after the coroner’s report said Stiles died due to blunt force trauma.
Teen Bragged About Killing Homeless Man
Colorado Springs, Colorado
February 5, 2009: David Doyle, age 55, was sleeping on a pedestrian bridge when Taylor Lane Gwaltney, 19, biked past him. Gwaltney later returned to kill Doyle, hitting him up to 16 times with a skateboard. Gwaltney then bragged to over a dozen other teens that he had “killed a bum.” Doyle was a dirt bike racer in the ‘70s and ‘80s and worked in Colorado Springs for years before recently becoming homeless. Many community members and friends gathered in honor of Doyle after his death. Gwaltney was convicted of first-degree murder and received a mandatory life sentence without parole.
Student Kills Homeless Man Based on Prejudice
February 7, 2009: A 32-year-old university student has been charged in the early-morning killing of a 47-year-old homeless man named Joe Tall. Jeremy Lee Pierce remains jailed after being formally charged with the shooting murder. Joe Tall was found lying on a Metro bus bench with at least one bullet hole in his head on the University of Houston campus. He was discovered by a student riding his bike to work when he noticed blood dripping from the victim.
The murder of Tall is being referred to by investigators as a “thrill kill.” Pierce was known by other students as an aggressive person and is quoted as saying that the homeless are a “blight to society.”
Four Men Assault and Murder Homeless Man
San Francisco, California
February 15, 2009: Police believe four men were involved in an extremely aggressive assault on two homeless men. One homeless man was able to escape the assailants with minimal injuries; but Peter Azadian, 57, who had been living under a door frame in the area, later died at a hospital. His death was caused by blunt force impacts.
Homeless Women Brutally Beaten and Murdered
February 20, 2009: An inmate has been charged in connection with the murder of two homeless women. The women were 56 and 51 years old and their bodies were found 15 days apart, on February 5 and on February 20, near vacant houses. According to police, homeless people have been using the houses as refuge from the elements. David Ray Williams, 22, allegedly murdered two women by beating them on their neck, face, and head.
The bodies of the women were discovered by children playing in the building and by an electric meter worker, respectively. Police believe that the women were sexually assaulted, based on the haggard condition of their clothing. Patrols were increased in the area in the hopes of finding potential leads but the case broke when DNA evidence linking Williams to the murder was discovered.
Vietnam Veteran Becomes Victim of Homeless Attack
February 23, 2009: Daniel Case, age 59, a Vietnam War veteran, was killed while sleeping behind a local business. Upon his return to the United States, Case suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, constantly having night terrors and an inability to function out of depression and fear. Case felt that his disruptive behavior was unfair to his wife and three children and decided to move to Florida for their own well-being. He was attempting to find work in the factory industry, and was planning to get off the streets by living with one of his daughters.
Case had established a relationship with a local business and was allowed to sleep behind the building in return for custodial labor. He was attacked by Luis A. Rincon, 17, and Robert A. Ramirez, 18, who were both members of a local street gang. They severely beat him with a bat and golf club. The attack seemed unprovoked, according to police. Case was found dead in his lawn chair the following morning. Rincon will serve a 30-year prison sentence for his part in Case’s death.
Couple Charged with Killing Homeless Man
March 25, 2009: Cruz Ramos, Jr., age 21, and Priscilla Garcia-Solis, 19, were arrested in Laredo, Texas, after Ramos admitted to murdering a 28-year-old homeless victim. The couple had a verbal altercation with the victim but left without a physical incident. Later, the attackers returned to confront the homeless man, after collecting a wooden ax from Ramos’ home. Ramos then began to assault the victim with the wooden ax handle while Garcia-Solis violently kicked him. Police found the homeless victim dead in an abandoned building. The pair has been charged with felony murder. Ramos is serving a 30-year prison sentence for the crime, while Garcia-Solis awaits a trial.
Man Left for Dead in Street
Kansas City, Missouri
April 1, 2009: While waiting for a bus, a homeless man was attacked by two teenaged males. The attack was caught on surveillance camera, and investigated by the Kansas City Police. When the homeless man was punched, he collapsed into the street and was run over by a car minutes later. He was left in the street as his attackers fled, and later died in the hospital.
Teen Charged with Murder of Homeless Man
Holden Heights, Florida
April 17, 2009: The body of Ora James Light, a 51-year-old homeless man, was found under Interstate 4. Light’s abandoned body was found with multiple stab wounds. An 18-year-old male, Tyler Sturdivant, originally denied any connection to Light but later admitted that he killed Light, claiming it was in self-defense.
Three Men Beat Homeless Man to Death
April 17, 2009: Anthony Chatteron, 40, was killed by three men after a verbal argument. Chatteron believed the men had stolen from him. Chatteron died at the scene after suffering from trauma to his upper body. The men fled the scene and took off in a car with a female driver. The police have not identified the suspects.
Teens Kill Homeless Man
April 18, 2009: Three teenage boys are facing murder charges after they beat a local homeless man to death. Using metal pipes and makeshift bats, the trio continually smashed the skull of Timothy Alcorn, 48 years old, until he lost consciousness. Albert Sanchez, 18, John Hadley Thompson, 15, and Jared Cory Voss, 17, then attempted to hide the body under a bush on the outskirts of the forest.
One of the teens described the attack as liberating, stating that, “it felt good” to beat Alcorn. He continued to say that he could not stop himself from striking Alcorn and was 90 percent sure that he had killed him. The attacks were clearly premeditated and deliberate, as the teens met earlier in the day at a local fast food restaurant where the plan to “kick a bum’s ass” came to fruition. Deputy District Attorney Stew Jankowitz referred to the three teens as a “roving pack of predators.”
Homeless Man in Wheelchair Found Dead
Santa Barbara, California
April 23, 2009: Allan McKibben, a homeless man in a wheelchair, was found dead by a train station, without his prosthetic leg. His face had been scratched and his tongue was severely bitten. Besides that, McKibben also had injuries to his collarbone and spine. Advocates believe that the circumstances of McKibben’s death indicate foul play; officials believe that some of his injuries may have been sustained before his death.
Homeless Man Killed in Unprovoked Beating
April 27, 2009: Edwin D. Smith, 29, was found by two fishermen after he was beaten to death in the Water Street Park. Smith died from internal injuries in what police are considering an unprovoked beating. Caleb L. Atteberry, 32, was arrested the next day and has been charged with first-degree murder and two cases of aggravated battery in Smith’s death. Atteberry is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Gang Members Murder Homeless Man
April 29, 2009: Six gang members, ages 12 to 19, chased, beat, stabbed, and killed 44-year-old Jose Marie Barajas. The group had been harassing Barajas for two weeks before the night they murdered him. The gang members beat him with bottles, sticks, and clubs before stabbing him three times. The gang members were motivated by the location of the campsite where Barajas was a resident and leader. It was located in their street gang turf.
Homeless Man Murdered in Drunken Rage
May 11, 2009: Police in Eugene are investigating the death of homeless resident Herbert Taylor Bishop, age 56. He was discovered in a wooded area with severe blood loss and head trauma.
Bishop, known to friends and residents as Pac-Man, is suspected to have been murdered by two men, Michael Andrew Baughman, age 22, and Ryan Eugene Casch, also 22. The men viciously beat Pac-Man to death with blunt objects.
According to witness accounts, the duo went into the park “looking for someone to beat up.” Both men testified to attacking the Pac-Man in a drunken rage. Each man received a 25-year sentence.
One Homeless Man Beaten, Another Set on Fire
Trenton, New Jersey
May 14, 2009: John Madden, 58, died after suffering a beating with a blunt object. His body was found with severe trauma to his head and chest. It was later identified that he sustained substantial brain bleeding and injuries to both sides of his head. He was transported in an unconscious state to Capital Health Hospital, but never awoke. Police have identified these types of injuries as consistent with assault, not a fall or accident.
Another man is recovering in a Philadelphia hospital after being set on fire. While sleeping in a vacant structure, an unidentified man was burned when someone set his mattress on fire. He also sustained lacerations to his face. The motive behind the attacks remains unknown, but police presumed that the violence was directly related to the victims’ homelessness.
Homeless Man Beaten to Death with a Rock
May 31, 2009: Seventeen-year-old Carlos Molina-Alvarez was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of a homeless man after repeatedly hitting him with a rock. The homeless man, Karl Chilcoat, age 52, suffered a crushed skull from the multiple blows from the heavy object. The attack seems to be unprovoked. Alvarez will stand trial as an adult.
Attack on Homeless Man Ends in Homicide
June 28, 2009: A Eugene man suspected of carrying out an assault on a homeless person has been indicted on manslaughter and assault charges after the homeless man died from a closed head injury. Gerald Wudarski, a 53-year-old homeless man, wandered into Corey Freeman’s property looking for aluminum cans when Freeman confronted and chased Wudarski and another man down the street. Freeman caught up with Wudarski and punched him in the head.
Police were called by a neighbor and cited Wudarski with criminal trespassing. He was inspected by paramedics and no serious injuries were found. The last time Wudarski was seen alive is on a video surveillance tape taken shortly after 6 a.m. at a local laundry mat. When employees found Wudarski unresponsive an hour later, he was transported and later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Freeman, 28, was sentenced to two years after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.
Homeless Man Left for Dead in Alley
June 29, 2009: The body of homeless man David Caraway, 52, was found in an alley behind a Hope Village Thrift Shop. Upon initial review, physical evidence of a struggle was not apparent. Once his body made it to the autopsy, it was discovered that he had already been dead for two days. Physicians determined that he died of internal bleeding as a result of blunt force trauma to his body. It was thus declared a homicide.
Five teens have been charged with the murder of Caraway, yet their motive for this gruesome act is still unknown. The teens, aged 16, 17, 18, 19, and 19, were all arrested and charged with capital murder. There does not seem to be a clear purpose for the attacks besides his housing status, as his possessions were not taken.
Detectives Investigate Body of Burned Homeless Man
Los Angeles, California
July 2, 2009: Los Angeles police are investigating the suspicious death of a homeless man who was found with burns marks on his upper body and face. Investigators are trying to determine whether the man suffered the burns before or after his death. Locals say the homeless man was a frequent resident of the area.
‘Nicest Guy in the World’ Stabbed to Death
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
July 7, 2009: John “Jack” Reil, 58, died, leaving many of his family and friends devastated. “Nicest guy in the world,” and “Angel,” were just a few of the words used to described Reil. He worked for 20 years for the same company as a forklift operator before he succumbed to his alcoholism. He lived with other homeless people in a “canal town” where his absence will be felt most.
According to his former “roommates,” homeless beatings are common. They report “kids” come to hate and steal from the homeless. Reil was found stabbed multiple times in an apartment complex parking lot, according to police. Jamal Smith, 23, has been arrested after he allegedly admitted to stabbing Reil 14 times. He is being held on $5 million bail.
Homeless Man Brutally Beaten to Death
July 12, 2009: Two boys, Marc Ewing and Lawrence Lobdell, both 18 years of age, were charged with second-degree murder after stomping a homeless man to death. It was discovered that they were drunk and high on marijuana. According to police reports, they were craving food and liquor when they assaulted the man. While walking through a park with a female companion, they came across James Lockery, 37, a homeless man, trying to sleep. The duo attacked the sleeping Lockery and stole his belongings. Lockery had seven dollars and a case of beer.
Homeless Man Stabbed 16 Times by Teenagers
July 22, 2009: Two teenagers were riding their all-terrain vehicles one day when they came across the tent of 30-year-old Joel Boner. The teenagers, Hawthorne and Milner, both 19 years old, knew that this man was a homeless member of the community. They demanded that he leave the park where he slept. It is believed that Boner came out of his tent and told the teens that he would not leave. This caused Hawthorne and Boner to get into a physical fight, which ended up with Boner being stabbed 15 times in the back and once in the front.
The teens then took pictures of Hawthorne flexing without a shirt on and with a camera phone. The teen left the homeless man bleeding and asking for help at the scene. Hawthorne is being charged with murder. In July of 2010, a jury found Hawthorne guilty of second-degree murder. In August of 2010, he was sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Homeless Man Killed by Fifteen-Year-Old Teen
July 22, 2009: Eric Burkhart, age 55, was beaten, stomped, and kicked to death at his homeless camp. James Pineda, age 15, and his aunt, Cheryl McFarland, who was currently homeless herself, showed up at the camp in the middle of the night to collect money Burkhart owed them for a speaker that he had damaged two weeks before. Burkhart had already given Pineda 20 dollars for the speaker, and on the night of his murder, Pineda and McFarland took six dollars, a portable radio, and some cigarettes from him. Burkhart was found dead with wounds on his face, chest, and groin. Pineda pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and faces prison time of ten years to life.
Four Stabbings on Sunset Boulevard
August 6, 2009: Four homeless men were stabbed by 53-year-old Domingo Rodas. Police are continuing to investigate the motive behind Rodas’ stabbing spree. The only immediate connection between the victims appears to be their homelessness. All four victims were taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, two men died as a result of their injuries. Keith Falin, 43, and Roger Cota, 53, succumbed to multiple stab wounds. The other two men, 44 and 51 years old, are listed in stable condition.
Homeless Man Beaten and Kicked to Death
Monsey, New York
August 9, 2009: Mariusz Lopata, a 20-year-old Polish citizen, was arrested and charged with the murder of a 54-year-old homeless man on the night that he was to return to Poland. Lopata faced second-degree murder charges and was held without bail. Judge Schoenberger refused to release Lopata due to the severity of the offence and because he had plans to leave the country. Medical examiners have determined that the victim died of multiple injuries, including facial fractures and internal bleeding caused by repeated punches and kicks.
Four Homeless Men Murdered in Four Months
Las Vegas, Nevada
August 14, 2009: James Mendola, age 41, was found badly beaten and dead near a Desert Inn in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the fourth homeless person to have been found murdered in as many months, according to Metro Police. Police have arrested Steven Montoya, 46, who is accused of punching and kicking Minnich who was begging for money. Linda Lera-Randle El, director of Straight from the Streets said, “There is definitely fear among them because it is a lot of looking over your shoulder or looking over your back.”
Homeless Man Stabbed to Death in Park
August 25, 2009: Lloyd Austin IV, 30 years old, plead not guilty to the murder of James David Pelfrey, age 36. Pelfrey was found stabbed to death in the park. A grand jury indicted Gannon in connection with the stabbing and well as other misdemeanor charges including carrying a concealed weapon, escaping arrest, and attempted unlawful entry of a motor vehicle. On August 18, 2010, a judge convicted Austin of murder and sentenced him to 25-years-to-life in prison.
Killer Cuts Off Finger of Homeless Man as Trophy
October 18, 2009: According to a court affidavit, an informant told police that Adam Mason, 19, had bragged about killing a homeless man and had been planning to do so for months. In addition, several people reported to police that Mason cut off the finger of his homeless victim and was showing it off like a trophy.
According to court reports, Mason gave the finger to 19-year-old Heather Irene Parker who threw it away. Morgan is charged with first-degree murder, while Nikolas David Kerr, 19, and Heather Irene Parker have been charged as accessories after the fact. The 54-year-old homeless man was known as “Bicycle Bob” throughout the community, because he was often seen riding his bike through the Oklahoma City suburb. Police report that Mason, “was very excited and happy,” following the killing.
Homeless Man Shot with High-powered Rifle
North Little Rock, Arkansas
October 21, 2009: Jim Davis, 46, was walking along a busy intersection in North Little Rock, Arkansas, when someone drove up and shot him with a high-powered rifle. Police still have no leads, no suspects, and no understanding of the motivation behind this brutal and senseless crime. Davis’ sister told reporters, “Maybe they say this is a homeless man on the street, somebody killed him, oh well and let it go.”
However, detectives are determined not to “let it go” and continue to air the case every Wednesday night on the “THV 10:00 Difference,” a television program in Little Rock featuring Arkansas’ cold cases. By mentioning the case every week, the family of Jim Davis and the police hope that someone who saw what happened that night will come forward with information.
Homeless Man Murdered in Alley in Vicious Attack
San Antonio, Texas
November 1, 2009: Police have arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with a vicious attack that killed a homeless man. Wilber Adalid Rodriguez is being charged with the murder of a 28-year-old homeless man, according to police. A witness told police that he heard the victim say, “No, I’m sorry I offend you,” just before what sounded like someone being hit with a piece of wood several times. The witness also reported hearing, “Don’t hit me anymore,” according to an affidavit. Police were called to the scene but were unable to find the victim until the following morning. Police report that the victim was stabbed at least 13 times in the throat and stomach.
Homeless Man Shot to Death While Sleeping in Tent
November 3, 2009: While sleeping in a tent, Edward Matthews, 46, was fatally shot in the head. It is thought that the perpetrator may be the same individual who shot another homeless man, 60, in the mouth eight months earlier. Both attacks appeared unprovoked and occurred in the early morning hours.
Security Guard Helps Solve Homeless Murder
Pompano Beach, Florida
December 12, 2009: Police are hailing a Pompano Beach security guard who provided “crucial” information required to capture 17-year-old gunman Harry Velez after he shot two men, killing one. Eustoquio Lopez, age 46, was killed after he was shot in the neck. Velez has been charged with first-degree murder while his accomplice, Brady John Fisher, age 19, has been charged as an accessory after the fact according to officials. Police say the young men intended to rob the homeless man who seemed like an easy target.
Two Arrested After Beating Homeless Man to Death
December 19, 2009: Two suspects have been arrested in the beating death of a homeless man. Demetris Jordan, 39, and his 17-year-old accomplice are in custody and charged with the second-degree murder of a 49-year-old homeless man named Jessie James Latham. The pair allegedly beat the homeless man to death with blunt objects. Police found the victim’s body behind an abandoned house.
Hate Crimes Against the Homeless: America’s Growing Epidemic of Violence
Hate Crimes Against the Homeless was released on August 16, 2010, by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). For the past 11 years, NCH has been reporting on thousands of individuals impacted by hate crimes in order to educate lawmakers, advocates, and the general public about the problem of hate crimes against homeless people and to ensure protection of civil rights for everyone, regardless of their economic circumstances or housing status.
The National Coalition for the Homeless dedicates this report to the thousands of un-housed women and men who in spite of living in a country of laws and protections, are victims of bias-motivated offenses.
To read the full report, visit the NCH website at www.nationalhomeless.org