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Police Are Looking For A Connection In The Beating Deaths Of Men Sleeping Outside In LA, Santa Monica

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(Photo courtesy Lonni Besançon via Flickr)
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By Ryan Fonseca and Matt Tinoco

Santa Monica police are working with the Los Angeles Police Department to see if there's a connection between the apparent beating death of a man found on the beach, and three brutal attacks on homeless men last weekend in downtown L.A. In the downtown attacks, two of the victims died from their injuries.

Police say the male suspect in the weekend attacks used a baseball bat before robbing them. The LAPD released footage of the suspect, believed to be in his thirties or forties, with a notable "bow-legged" gait. Two of the victims were found in the 700 block of Wilshire Boulevard, the third near 5th Street between Flower Street and Figueroa.

On Thursday morning, a Santa Monica city maintenance worker found a man's body under the famous pier. The victim is described as a man in his thirties. Police say he "suffered an injury consistent with blunt force trauma to the head."

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No weapon was found and investigators have no information on who the attacker might be, according to Lt. Saul Rodriguez of the Santa Monica Police Department. The man was believed to have been sleeping when he was attacked and was initially described by police as appearing to be homeless. His family told the L.A. Times on Friday that he lived in San Gabriel and had slept on the beach after an overnight fishing trip.

As of Friday morning, no connection had been established in the attacks, according to LAPD spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera, but the investigation is continuing.

In 2016, about 8 percent of the people who died while homeless were killed by another person, according to data from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner's office. Unsheltered people in Los Angeles County are estimated to make up less than one percent of population.

In 2017, 831 people experiencing homelessness died while unsheltered, according to an L.A. County report. That's about an 80 percent increase in homeless people dying since 2013. Accidents were found to be the most common cause -- things like car crashes, drug overdoses or fires. That was closely followed by "natural causes," though in many of those cases the root cause may have been a preventable medical condition.

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"Living on the street is a very dangerous situation to be in," said Abby Arnold, a local homelessness policy consultant who's worked in the field for 25 years. "You don't have a home around you. You don't have a door you can lock."

While people who can go to their homes at night and turn a deadbolt may worry a lot about crime, Arnold says its unsheltered people who are the most vulnerable.

"People have no other option but to sleep on the street or outside somewhere that they think is as safe as they can find, and then they're brutally attacked while they're asleep," she said.

UPDATES:

4:45 p.m.: This article updated with additional context about homicide rates and quotes from Abby Arnold.

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7:32 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the L.A. Times.


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