Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's cool to beat up the homeless.....?

"So graphic and so disturbing.... by such young people," stated police spokesman Simon Drobik.

On July 18 2014, three teenagers attacked three homeless men jn Albuquerque New Mexico.  One victim managed to escape but the other two were beaten so badly that the police have not been able to positively identify them yet.  Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carrillo, 16 and Gilbert Tafoya, 15 have been arrested and it is expected that they will all be treated as adults and have all been charged with open counts of first degree murder.  They are all being held on $5 million dollars bond each.

The police received a call at 8 am Saturday morning that stated that there were two dead bodies in a vacant lot.  One was described as being on a mattress and the other was lying on the ground nearby.  The investigators who were on the scene were described as being sick to their stomachs from the brutality.  Jerome Eskeets had escaped the beating with only bruises and told police that the alleged attackers lived nearby.  He added that the same boys had attacked his mother, who is also homeless, at an earlier date.

Gilbert Prieto stated that Rios and Carrillo had slept over his house with his son Gilbert.  He added that when he called them out to talk with the police as to whether they knew anything about the murders, Tafoya immediately began throwing up.  He admitted to police that they had committed the attack as well as attacking up to 50 other people in the past year.

Investigators state that the boys had left a party that evening and were upset because one of them had broken up with his girlfriend.  They were said to be very angry over the breakup and went looking for someone to attack and possibly rob.  They heard voices coming from the vacant lot that was frequently used by the homeless, so they wrapped black t shirts around their heads so that they could hide their identities and headed in.  The teens found the three homeless men and proceeded to attack them.

Tafoya told police that all three of them attacked the three men with bricks, cinder blocks, punches, kicks and a metal pole.  He added that all three of them took turns lifting cinder blocks above their heads and smashing them down on the victims faces.  Rios claimed that he had only been a lookout for the other two but they stated that Rios was participating with them.  Eskeets told police that he tried to fight off the teens but he ended up escaping.  The teens continued to beat the other two victims for over an hour.

Prieto stated that he does not understand how his son Tafoya could have done something like this or even why he would target the homeless.  He stated that they had been homeless themselves for a time after the stock market crash in 2008 and his son would know what it is like to be on the streets or homeless.  The prosecution had requested bond for each of the boys of $1 million each.  Metropolitan Court Judge Linda Rogers cited the gravity of the alleged crimes and the potential for the suspects to flee and imposed bond of $5 million dollars each.

Sadly, what these three teens did is not something new............. beating up on the homeless has been a crime that continues to rise in numbers through the past decade.  In 2004, Rex Baum, 49 and homeless, was beaten to death by Nathan Moore, 15, Luis Oyola, 16 and Andrew Ihroke, 17 in Milwaukee WI.  The three had shared a couple of beers with him and then Oyola said he was going to hit Baum.  All three then proceeded to beat him with bricks, rocks, pipe, baseball bat and his own BBQ grill.  They then hid his body and went for a bite at McDonald's.  Baum's body was found two days later and police found the teens quickly since they had been bragging about it around town.  Ihroke had told police that killing the bum was just like playing a violent video game.

Killings like these are called "sport killings" by the police and they usually involve middle class teens with no previous criminal records.  Some have reported that they were inspired by the video series called "Bumfights" that features homeless people fighting each other for a few dollars in prize money.  Many of them have even gone so far as to tape themselves while they are beating up the homeless.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has been tracking anti-homeless hate crimes since 1999 and the number of deaths has not been below 100 a year in recent years.  Deaths among the homeless are the highest among all the hate crimes committed,  Almost all of the perpetrators are teenagers and young men and many of them state that they have grown up watching videos of bums fighting and playing video games that depict the homeless as worthless and degrade them.

Some states have made steps towards protecting the homeless and making crimes against them hate crimes.  Most groups that are working towards those goals have found that it is going to be a very long uphill battle to change the minds of the teens who still think it is acceptable to beat up the homeless.  Many of those who are serving time for their crimes against the homeless still don't really know why they did what they did.  There certainly is a case for "mob mentality" as well, since many of the crimes involve multiple teens attacking the homeless.

These are far from excuses for taking part in a crime like this.  A person always has the option to walk away rather than join in.  In this case....... two men are dead because three teens somehow thought it was ok to beat the hell out of three homeless men.