A homeless woman in her 60s was set on fire as she slept on a street bench outside of a Walgreens Drug Store in Van Nuys, California early Thursday morning. Witnesses reported seeing a man pour something on the woman, then lighting a match before he fled the scene.
"It was like when you pour gasoline on something -- like an explosion," said witness Erickson Ipina, who added that he often saw the homeless woman in the neighborhood.
The man purchased the bottle containing alcohol in the Walgreens store, then poured the contents on the woman, Ipina told a Newsreel photographer. Ipina said he called 911 and followed the attacker, who brandished a knife.
"He told me, 'Stop following me, or I will cut you,'" Ipina said. "I kept following him and then the police came."
The homeless woman, whose identity is not known at this time, has been hospitalized in critical condition. Police have one person in custody at this time.
Attacks such as this on the homeless are not uncommon, sadly. In the past week alone, a 55-year-old man was also set on fire as he slept outside a donut shop in southern Los Angeles County.
2010 was the “deadliest in a decade,” according to the National Coalition for the Homeless in its latest report on hate crimes against homeless people.
Forty-three homeless people died from acts of violence committed against them by housed individuals who were biased against them and/or found them a conveniently vulnerable target for aggression.