LAPD Detective Unsure What to Make of Report of Homeless Man Lit on Fire

The LAFD has no report of the incident, and other pieces of information aren't adding up.

The details of a blog post on Highland Park-Mt. Washington Patch posted Sunday were shocking—a homeless man in a wheelchair claimed he had been lit on fire by three young men while he was sleeping in front of the Eagle Rock Library at 5027 Caspar Ave. The blog included a short video of the man's back that had been clearly burned.  

The Los Angeles Police Department detective in charge of the case said he is so far unsure what to make of the report because not all of the details provided in the blog post and the police report have been accurate. 

"As of right now there’s no evidence that it occurred how [the alleged victim] said it occurred or where he said it occurred," Det. Joe Rios said.   

The post was made by Rebecca Prine of Recycled Resources for the Homeless, a Highland Park-based homeless advocacy group, and the homeless man was identified as an Eagle Rock native named John. 

Rios said he has not yet spoken to the alleged victim because it was Prine who called the LAPD to make the report, but that he spent several hours on Tuesday looking for him.  

"I have no doubt he got burnt, because I saw the video. But as far as how it happened, I have no clue," Rios said. 

According to the post, John said someone called 911 and paramedics arrived at the scene to put out the flames. Rios said he is in the process of checking to see if a 911 call was made, but that the Los Angeles Fire Department has no record of any call related to the incident. 

"According to the fire captain at fire station 55, there was never a fire unit dispatched to where the victim said the fire unit was dispatched," Rios said. "...There was no record of fire station 42 or 55, which handle the area, that any call was made."

Rios also added that it would be against the LAFD's protocol for the paramedics to not inform the LAPD about that kind of violent incident, and that it wouldn't make sense for a police officer to not also be dispatched to that kind of a call. 

"That's a code three call," Rios said, referring to an LAPD dispatch code meaning officers should respond with their lights and sirens on.

Further adding to the confusion over if a 911 call was actually placed, all 911 calls made in Los Angeles are first routed to the LAPD's Communications Division dispatchers before being rerouted to the LAFD, according to the LAPD's website.

Rios also said there was nothing in the report that the victim said anything to indicate it was a hate crime, as the blog post suggested.

"As far as it being a hate crime, I want to talk to him to verify, but there's nothing in the report that says he said that," Rios said.

Rios also said there was no physical evidence to suggest the crime had occurred.

"I went to where he said it happened, specifically where he said it happened, and I didn’t see any burn marks there on the floor, which would probably be a normal thing if you throw yourself on the ground, to see some kind of black marks, but there was nothing out there at all," Rios said. "I don’t know what to say on this one."

Patch will continue to follow this story and update our readers when more information is available. 
Fernando lopez October 09, 2013 at 12:58 AM
henk friezer October 09, 2013 at 02:31 PM
If the homeless "victim" can be identified,is it not possible to see if he has a past record (medical or legal ) which would indicate any previous scarring? Usually homeless gather in groups, some of his buddies might have info if there was an incident recently.
Rob Schraff October 09, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Yeah Henk, maybe the guy dumped gas on himself and set it on fire to get attention. This is a horribly reported story, see the comment thread on HP Patch...
Carlos de Varona October 10, 2013 at 02:09 PM
I live half a block away from library, and from where "John" the homeless man burned some. There is some burn marks still visible next to a bike rack on Casper close to the corner. Rebecca, I would take any comment John makes with a ounce of salt. I have dealt with him plenty. He told that he was a Marine Vet. So I asked if he was a Jar head, or a grunt. He had no idea of what I was talking about. This is only speculation on my part, but maybe he just fell asleep smoking a cigarette.


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