by Lynda Carson
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t nearly the same moment as people in Oakland, San Francisco and 150 other cities across the country held Homeless Memorials this past December to remember homeless persons who died on the streets, a series of brutal murders of homeless men in Orange County delivered a shocking warning about the hazards of living on the streets.
The murders in late December and January caused widespread fear in the homeless community in Anaheim, Calif.
Finally, on Jan. 13, 2012, Orange County police arrested an alleged serial killer of homeless men. Itzcoatl Ocampo, a 23-year-old Iraq war veteran, was booked in the Anaheim jail as a suspect in the stabbing murders of four homeless people that began on Dec. 20, 2011.
The timing of the murders was deeply unsettling to many homeless advocates, since people had gathered in 150 cities all across the nation to mourn the premature deaths of homeless people on the streets.
Most of these memorials took place on Dec. 21, 2011 — the day after the first murder of a homeless man occurred.
During the very same time period in late December when clergy and homeless advocates gathered at these memorials to reflect on the many tragic causes of death of homeless people, Ocampo went on a murderous rampage, and left a bloody trail of homeless victims on the affluent streets of Orange County.
Itzcoatl Ocampo is being held without bail in Orange County Jail, after being caught and charged in the stabbing death of an elderly homeless man named John Berry, age 64, a Vietnam veteran. Berry was stabbed repeatedly by the 23-year-old ex-Marine, and died of fatal wounds late that Friday night, Jan. 13, in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Anaheim, Calif.
People who knew John Berry told the press that he was “a spiritual man” who was so well liked by his neighbors that they created a large memorial for him at the corner of La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway, where he was murdered.
Chris Juarez described Berry to KABC Eyewitness News: “He was just like the kindest person ever. A homeless man that never asked for anything, never begged. He stuck to his own thing. He was perfectly happy.”
Ocampo was finally captured by a policeman after being chased on foot by witnesses and bystanders from the fast-food restaurant where he allegedly stabbed Berry. Berry was Ocampo’s most recent homeless murder victim. Ocampo is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, for the four homeless men he is accused of killing over the holiday season.
Ocampo first was charged with murdering James McGillivray, age 53, on Dec. 20, 2011, at a mall in Placentia. Next, on Dec. 28, Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found stabbed to death near the Santa Ana River Trail in Anaheim. Then, only two days after this murder, Paulus Smit, 57, was found stabbed to death near the Yorba Linda Public Library on Dec. 30.
The recent spate of killings terrorized homeless people in Orange County. As the unsolved, highly publicized murders continued for weeks, homeless persons wondered if they were going to be the next to die at the hands of the serial killer.
According to authorities, every one of Ocampo’s victims were stabbed a shocking number of times. His first victim, James McGillivray, was stabbed more than 40 times. Lloyd Middaugh was stabbed more than 50 times, Paulus Smit was stabbed more than 60 times.
The police realized they were tracking a serial killer who was terrorizing the homeless population. It was reported that three of the people killed by Ocampo were attacked and stabbed to death while they were sleeping alone on the streets.
John Berry was stabbed to death on Jan. 13, and Anaheim Police Chief John Welter admitted that only days before the homeless man was brutally murdered, he filed a report with the police stating that he believed he was being stalked by the serial killer. Apparently he was right, yet the authorities failed to protect Berry, and keep him safe from the serial killer.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas confirmed that even while police sought the killer, Ocampo had twice driven through vehicle checkpoints set up in an attempt to gain information about the killer from the public. Ocampo was never apprehended at these checkpoints.
To further compound the tragedy, District Attorney Rackauckas stated that Ocampo chose Berry to be his fourth victim because Berry had appeared in a news article about the serial slayings, warning homeless men to be careful.
Evidently, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs placed such a low value on the lives of the homeless, that they only offered the public a mere $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of the serial killer. This was barely the same reward amount that people are currently offering for lost pets in the same affluent region.
The miniscule reward of $5,000 offered by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs for the capture and arrest of a serial killer in Orange County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, reveals how the authorities place little to no value on the lives and deaths of the homeless men that were stalked, stabbed and brutally murdered by the ex-Marine, Itzcoatl Ocampo.
District Attorney Rackauckas filed charges against Ocampo on Jan. 17, including four counts of special circumstances murder, with additional charges for multiple murders, and for murders committed while lying in wait, and with the use of a deadly weapon.
The district attorney commended the citizens whose actions led to the apprehension and filing of the charges against Ocampo, the same citizens that now may be eligible for the $5,000 reward, for risking their lives in the capture of the alleged serial killer. Ocampo was captured by a policeman after being chased on foot by witnesses and bystanders from the parking lot of Carl’s Jr. after stabbing Berry.
It paints a very grim picture of the status of homeless people in America to realize how very little their lives are valued by the authorities. Consider the paltry $5,000 reward offered for the arrest of a serial killer who brutally murdered four human beings — in affluent Orange County where the pet dogs or cats of wealthy people often are worth the same amount in reward money.
For what it’s worth, on Jan. 7, 2012, it was reported that a pet owner in Simi Valley (an hour and a half drive from Orange County) was offering a $5,000 reward for a lost Chihuahua. In nearby Glendale (34 miles from Anaheim), a car owner offered a $5,000 reward for a stolen 1959 Chevy Impala. On Nov. 10, 2011, elsewhere in California, it was reported that a reward of $5,000 was offered for a lost Doberman puppy.
On Jan. 17, 2011, in Seattle, a $5,000 reward was offered on Craigslist for a stolen male pit bull. On Dec. 6, 2011, in Houston, a $5,000 reward was offered for a chocolate labrador retriever. On Aug. 8, 2011, a woman in British Columbia offered a $5,000 reward for her lost cat.
Considering that the authorities of Orange County believe it is a fair deal to offer the same amount of reward money for the conviction of a serial killer of homeless men, as some people are being rewarded for finding a lost dog, or stolen car, it is evident that homeless persons have virtually no value to the authorities.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org