La police affirme qu'un homme sans abri a tenté de mettre le feu à un autre près de Los Angeles

La police affirme qu'un homme sans abri a tenté de mettre le feu à un autre près de Los Angeles

octobre 5, 2019 0 Par admin


U.S.|One Homeless Man Tried to Set Another on Fire Near Los Angeles, Police Say

The episode was the latest in a series of attacks against homeless people in and around Los Angeles, and came amid heated debate about the homelessness crisis in California.

CreditCreditGlendale Police Department

The man was sleeping under a jumble of cardboard boxes in downtown Glendale, Calif., the police said, when another homeless man approached, lit the cardboard on fire — and then started taking pictures.

The victim, 64, realized the cardboard was ablaze and scrambled, unsuccessfully, to put out the flames with bottled water, according to the Glendale Police Department. He was not injured, and firefighters arrived quickly to put out the fire, which occurred about 1:20 a.m. on Sept. 12.

Surveillance cameras captured the episode, and the police arrested a suspect in a nearby park hours later. The suspect, Richard Smallets, 32, was charged with attempted murder and arson of an inhabited structure or property and is being held with bail set at $1 million, the police said this week. The victim’s name was not released.

The attack occurred the same week that a burned body was found at a homeless encampment in nearby Van Nuys, and after a series of fire-related attacks on homeless people in Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times reported. On Aug. 25, a fire set by two men who targeted an encampment became a 45-acre brush fire. The next night, a beloved musician was killed when someone set fire to his tent in downtown Los Angeles.

Shayla Myers, a senior attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles who works on homelessness and housing, said the attacks had sowed fear among her clients.

“When folks are unhoused they’re vulnerable to all sorts of things, whether it’s the weather, violence, or criminalization and incarceration as a result of the fact that they’re unhoused,” Ms. Myers said.

She said that policies that criminalize homelessness make it more difficult for people without housing to reach out to law enforcement in times of danger.

California houses 12 percent of the population of the United States, but about half of the country’s unsheltered homeless live there. Analysts blame the ratio on a lack of affordable housing and strict building regulations.

During a fund-raising trip to California this month, President Trump fulminated about the crisis, and the administration has called for easing regulations on builders and increasing law enforcement to address the problem. The Washington Post reported this month that administration officials had discussed razing tent camps in Los Angeles and moving homeless people into government-backed facilities.

The most recent count of homeless people in Los Angeles County, released in June, found that homelessness was up by 12 percent over the last year. The total was nearly 59,000 people, about 44,000 of whom were unsheltered. The count included children, veterans and people fleeing relationship violence, as well as people with severe mental illness, H.I.V./AIDS and addiction issues.

CreditGlendale Police Department

The victim in Glendale had been camped out in a central location, in back of the Museum of Neon Art, which bills itself as the only museum in the world dedicated to art in electric media. It sits near a popular outdoor mall filled with upscale stores and restaurants.

Tahnee Lightfoot, a spokeswoman for the Glendale Police Department, could not say whether the suspect and victim knew each other. A public defender representing Mr. Smallets did not immediately return a call for comment.

Court records show Mr. Smallets had been charged with disorderly conduct for public intoxication in Burbank in June; the charge was dismissed earlier this month.

He is due in court on Oct. 30 on the current charges.

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Karen Zraick is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who writes frequently about race, gender and civil rights. She has also worked as an editor on the International desk and in news curation. @karenzraick

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