[Hpn] Homeless man targeted in vicious attack

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 06 Feb 2001 17:42:28 -0700

Las Vegas SUN
December 29, 2000 

Homeless man targeted in vicious attack
Victim in critical condition; group of teens suspected

By Keith Paul 

They live on the edge of society and are faced daily with people who avoid
eye contact. But sometimes the homeless are sought out -- by thugs looking
for easy victims.

A 56-year-old homeless man was an easy victim Wednesday night. The man,
identified by his friends as Arthur, was sleeping about 8:30 p.m. in his
spot -- an area near A Street and Owens Avenue -- when a group of teenagers
started kicking him and stomping on him.

"They were kicking him in the head, kicking him in the ribs, stomping on his
face," said Ron Travis, a homeless man who was camped close by and said he
scared off the pack of six to eight teenagers by picking up a big rock and
walking at them.

Arthur was in critical condition on life support in University Medical
Center this morning. Metro Police are investigating the beating and suspect
the teens live nearby. No arrests had been made.

After the teens ran away Travis went down the street to the Salvation Army
and called 911.

"He didn't say anything to them. He had his blankets over his head. That's
the way he sleeps," said Travis, 62. "I didn't hear them say anything before
they started. I just heard Arthur (grunting) when he was being kicked."

Homeless people could be an attractive victim for those looking for someone
to beat on because the thinking is they are unlikely to contact the police
or be believed.

"We're like the pigeons," said Bob Iaukea, 47, who lives near the Salvation
Army homeless center.

But Iaukea and other homeless people said they are not often the victims of
bands of teenagers or others. Mostly these men and women keep to themselves
and camp in numbers large enough to deter crimes against them.
Metro Police Officer Eric Fricker said homeless people do face the danger of
crime to a greater degree than the rest of society.

"They can't lock their doors," said Fricker, who works with the homeless.
"But this (attack) really concerns us because it sounds like he was a target
of opportunity. If they do it once, they may do it again."

The area's homeless population has been listed as low as 6,700 and as high
as about 18,000. Many homeless advocates put the population somewhere
between those numbers.

There are as many as 4,000 homeless people who either live or seek services
in an area known as the homeless corridor -- Bonanza Road to Owens Avenue
and A Street to Las Vegas Boulevard, Fricker said.

"They face everything you and I do and 100 times more," Fricker said. "They
are the most victimized group. They are vulnerable, and they do not contact
the police as much as we would like."

Iaukea said when something happens to a homeless person by a teen or another
nonhomeless person, the police generally aren't called.

"It's our word against some upstanding citizen, so who are you going to
believe?" he said.

A man camped near Iaukea said he hasn't run into problems with teens or

"I don't know why teenagers would want to mess with the homeless," said the
man who didn't want to give his name. "There are some crazy-looking people
out here. There's one guy who plays with his beard all day and hasn't
changed his clothes in a year."

Bob Corcoran, who has been homeless in Las Vegas since October 1999, said
he's never experienced an unprovoked attack such as the one Wednesday night,
but he said teenagers tend to be the ones who yell and throw things at
homeless people.

"Sometimes you have to worry about the kids," he said. "But really, I
haven't had problems at all."

But with one group of teenagers having already attacked a sleeping homeless
man, more attacks could occur, said Bill Provost of the Salvation Army.

"It doesn't happen often, but it does seem to come in waves," said Provost,
who was homeless for six years. "Homeless are just easier targets because
people think they won't be missed."

Provost said in the eight years he's worked for the Salvation Army he's
heard about a half dozen to a dozen incidents where a homeless person was
attacked by someone other than another homeless person.

Travis' actions to protect his friend show that just because people are
homeless it doesn't mean there aren't those who care about them. After
Travis scared off the teens and called 911, he hustled back up the street to
make sure the teens didn't return.

"He's (Arthur) a good guy and mostly kept to himself," he said. "There was
no reason for them to do that."

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