Violence Against the Homeless

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

In this country there is a growing trend towards violence against those who are homeless. This issue has become large enough that there is a movement to add crimes against thee homeless to the national hate crime bill. of course, as would be expected, there are several Republicans who are against the collecting of data involved in this, even though out of all hate crime protected classes over the last few years, none match the numbers of assaults and murders against the homeless. Violent crimes against the homeless are higher than any of the others protected classes and should warrant attention and equal protection.

Here are some of the cases. Including three from Eugene.

In October 2009, two teens shoved, taunted and dragged James Cunningham, 54, by the ankles down a street in Pompano Beach, Fla., while laughing and filming the attack for posting on YouTube. 

Two men beat and “stomped on the head” of Johnny Warden, 68, outside a convenience store in Lauderhill, Fla., in June.

Last year was the deadliest in a decade for homeless people when 43 were killed, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Since 1999, there have been 288 fatal attacks on homeless individuals.

Norris Gaynor, a 45-year-old homeless veteran, was sleeping on a park bench in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., when he was brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat. His teenage attackers, who were later convicted of second-degree murder, had made assaulting the homeless a sport.

Much to the surprise of his family, hundreds of people — from infants to senior citizens — came to honor John Robert McGraham, a homeless man who was brutally murdered on Oct. 9. McGraham, 55, was doused with gasoline and set ablaze. Despite efforts of residents and shopkeepers to extinguish the flames, he died at the scene, on a sidewalk in front of a boarded-up dental office on the corner of West Third and Berendo streets in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. “

The attacks on homeless street people are particularly vicious. “They are the most vulnerable people in the country,” says Tony Taylor, a research associate at the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Over 1 in 4 attacks that are reported against the homeless end in murder. That’s huge compared to one-tenth of a percent of other protected classes,” he said, referring to categories of individuals currently protected under federal hate-crime legislation. These crimes typically include bias-motivated violence and intimidation against individuals based on their sexual orientation, race or religion. Being homeless and on the street is not one of the existing categories. In 2006, the last year that FBI figures were available for hate-crime fatalities, three individuals in the protected classes were killed vs. 20 homeless individuals.

In October of 2004, three Milwaukee teens murdered a homeless man at his forest campsite. The teens hit 49-year-old Rex Baum, with rocks, a flashlight, and a pipe, before smearing feces on his face and covering his body with leaves and plastic.

In August of 2004, Curtis Gordon Adams, 33, beat and stabbed a disabled homeless man to death and then licked the blood from his fingers on a Denver sidewalk.

More recently, on May 28th 2005, in Holly Hill, Florida, 53-year-old Michael Roberts was beaten and punched to death with sticks and logs by a group of teenagers who admitted to beating the man just for fun, to have something to do. The autopsy report indicates that Roberts died of blunt-force trauma to the head and body, his ribs were broken, his skull was fractured, and his legs were badly injured. Defensive wounds were found on his hands. The boys returned several times to make sure the job was done.

In October, police say that Steven James Diponio, 54, became so enraged at Charles Duncan, 42, who was homeless and sleeping behind a school near Diponio’s house, that the older man beat Duncan with a baseball bat, tied him to his car bumper and dragged him down the street until neighbors stopped him. Duncan was left bleeding and battered on the sidewalk until someone called for help.

Profile of Homeless Victim

The most common victim of homeless hate crimes is a middle aged, homeless man. Between 1999 and 2009, on average, almost thirty eight percent of victims were

between the ages of forty and fifty and seventy percent of the victims are between the ages of forty and sixty. In 2009, the homeless victim’s average age was forty-

five. In addition to being predominantly middle-aged, a large majority (eighty-five percent) of victims were male.

The Perpetrators

In contrast to the average victim, the most common perpetrators of homeless hate crimes are young men. In the past eleven years, seventy-eight percent of the

perpetrators were under the age of twenty-five. In 2009, nearly half of the accused/convicted perpetrators were under twenty years old. The youngest known

perpetrator in 2009 was twelve. Almost all (ninety- eight percent) of the perpetrators of homeless hate crimes in 2009 were male.

And in Eugene?

Homeless Man Murdered in Drunken Rage EUGENE, OREGON – May 11, 2009.

Police in Eugene are investigating the death of homeless resident Herbert Taylor Bishop, fifty-six. 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, twenty-two, and Ryan Eugene Casch, twenty-two. 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 twenty-five year sentence.

Assault on Homeless Turns to Manslaughter EUGENE, OREGON – June 28, 2009

A Eugene man suspected of carrying out an assault on a homeless person has been indicted on second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault charges after the homeless man died from a closed head injury. Gerald Wudarski, a fifty-three 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, twenty- eight, was sentenced to two years after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

Homeless Man Stabbed to Death EUGENE, OREGON – August 25, 2009.

Lloyd Austin IV, thirty, plead not guilty to the murder of James David Pelfrey, thirty-six. 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.

So, when does this change, when do we become human and gain value to those not in our situations? It makes me sad to know that there are those who fight against the enacting of laws to confront this issue, but hey, according to many we are valueless.

Just something to think about.




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