SAN DIEGO (AP) - Another San Diego homeless man was seriously injured early Wednesday by an attacker police say struck while he was asleep and tried to set him on fire, the latest in a spate of attacks on transients that have left two dead.
It was unclear if the man attacked in downtown San Diego would survive injuries to his upper torso, said San Diego police Capt. David Nisleit. The attacker tried to set the man on fire with a towel or piece of clothing before fleeing, but a witness pulled the burning cloth away.
It was the fourth attack in four days on homeless men in San Diego. The attacks that began over the Fourth of July weekend have set the city’s homeless population on edge.
As in previous attacks, Wednesday’s victim was asleep when the assailant approached. The victim’s identity was unknown.
“It’s the same MO as the previous three. We’re going to call it a series of cases,” said Nisleit.
On Tuesday, police released convenience store surveillance video of someone wanted for questioning — a man wearing a baseball cap, jacket and backpack.
Police have identified one of the deceased as Angelo De Nardo, 53, who had family in Pennsylvania. He suffered extensive trauma to his upper torso and died before his body was set on fire. His badly burned remains were found Sunday morning between Interstate 5 and some train tracks.
On Monday, police responded to a 911 call of a second man who suffered life-threatening injuries to his upper torso. A few hours later, police discovered the second body, that of a man who bled from the upper torso.
The Alpha Project, which provides temporary housing in San Diego, has dispatched eight people to canyons, freeway ramps and other encampments to encourage transients to sleep in groups and in lighted areas, said Bob McElroy, the group’s president. McElroy has been distributing pepper spray.
“People are freaking out,” said McElroy. “This guy is systematically targeting people who are by themselves, kills them and sets them on fire.”
In 2012, a man was charged in a rampage in nearby Orange County that left six people dead, including four homeless men and a woman and her son. Itzcoatl Ocampo, 25, died in jail before trial.
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