Homeless Should Be Protected by Hate Crimes Laws, L.A. Councilwoman Says

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Following several serious or deadly attacks on homeless people in recent weeks, a Los Angeles city councilwoman introduced a resolution today supporting any legislation that would add homeless people to the list of those protected by the state's hate crime law. 

A homeless man and woman were attacked with battery acid while they slept in a Mission Hills park on Sunday, and a man was arrested last month as the prime suspect in a series of beatings of primarily homeless people in Los Angeles and Santa Monica that left four dead and four others seriously injured. 

The California Penal Code defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the perceived characteristics of the victim, according to the resolution, which was introduced by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.``The current definition of hate crime does not include housing status, even though attacks against those experiencing homelessness are a persistent problem,'' the resolution states. 

Officers were called just after midnight Sunday to Devonwood Park at Devonshire Street and Woodman Avenues and located a 42-year-old woman with chemical burns on her face and arms and a 35-year-old man with burns to his skin, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. 

The victims told police it was the third time in the past three weeks they've been attacked as they slept in the park, police said. They said the first time they were doused with gasoline and the other time with bleach. 

Meanwhile, Ramon Escobar, 47, was arrested last month and is suspected in eight attacks on mostly people in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Police believe he used either a baseball bat or pair of bolt cutters in many of the attacks. 

Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Billy Hayes said the attacks did not appear to be based on any hatred toward homeless people, even though all the victims except one were apparently homeless.``I think it was a crime of opportunity,'' he said. ``... It appears the motive in most of these cases was robbery.''

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