homeless man shot dead while panhandling in Mesa, Arizona FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 14 Apr 1998 13:24:14 -0700 (PDT)


FWD

PASSER-BY ARRESTED IN SLAYING OF TRANSIENT

  By Jim Walsh
  The Arizona Republic
  April 7, 1998

A transient who sought a handout from two men in the dark was shot to death
in Mesa.

A police spokesman said he cannot recall another murder where the victim
was a transient and the suspect a passer-by.

The still unidentified victim approached two men who were urinating behind
a central Mesa department store at 5 a.m. Sunday and asked for money, Sgt.
Earle Lloyd said Monday.

"They got into an argument. The guy (the passer-by) decided to shoot him.
He pulled out a gun and shot him," he said.

A tip from a witness with a guilty conscience led to the arrest of Arthur
Scott Wolfe, 31, a Phoenix cabdriver, on suspicion of second-degree murder,
Lloyd said.

Police do not plan to pursue charges against the witness, Lloyd said,
because he called them within an hour to identify Wolfe.

Although transients have been murdered occasionally in Mesa during the past
several years, police and homeless advocates agreed that the shooting was
highly unusual.

"The word out on the street is that Mesa is not as violent as Phoenix, but
we still see a lot of people who are beaten and robbed," said Joyce Faith,
director of Paz de Cristo, a Mesa charity that serves the homeless.

Faith suspects that some of the homeless come to Mesa from Phoenix because
it's less violent but that they never escape violence entirely as they
struggle to survive.

"It's a very violent lifestyle. It's hard to be a pacifist and be on the
street," Faith said.

But Faith also has seen a "generous spirit" among the homeless, who
sometimes sacrifice blankets, shoes or what little else they own to help
each other.

Paz de Cristo, an outreach program of St. Timothy's Catholic Church with an
ecumenical bent, typically serves dinner to about 250 transients a day
during the winter, with the ranks declining in the summer, Faith said.

The homeless end up on the streets for a variety of reasons, she said. Many
are mentally or physically ill, while others are addicted to alcohol or
drugs.

"I think (this murder) is horrific. It's a very clear example of the
violence in our society," Faith said.

Although transients often are blamed for crime, most of those offenses fall
into the nuisance category: urinating in public, trespassing, panhandling
and loitering, Lloyd said.

"We very seldom arrest transients for major crimes," he said. "They're just
trying to exist."

Lloyd said that transients are killed by each other from time to time, or
in less extreme cases, assault each other.

Police are still trying to identify the transient through his fingerprints.
He is described only as an Anglo man in his 40s, about 6 feet tall and
weighing 190 pounds.

Before the shooting, Wolfe and the witness attended a party in Mesa, Lloyd
said. They stopped behind a Mervyn's in the 1200 block of East Main Street,
to urinate, Lloyd said.

The victim was shot once at close range with a semiautomatic handgun and
was pronounced dead at the scene.

"I'm not even sure if this was anger," Lloyd said. "I'm sure alcohol had
something to do with it."

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