Photo by Ron Donoho
The July 7 press conference: Capt. David Nisleit (center), Mayor Kevin Faulconer (left of center), SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman (right of center)
Last Thursday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman, SDPD homicide Capt. David Nisleit and other police brass converged for a press conference to announce they’d arrested a suspect in the grisly murder-and-torture case involving four local homeless men, including three who died.
The homeless community—those sleeping on the streets, the service providers and community advocates who care about these souls—breathed a sigh of relief.
Concurrently, over the weekend tourists and locals began enjoying All-Star Game festivities. For many, an All-Star respite was welcome. Home run derbies and celebrity softball games can serve to take our minds off the atrocities beamed from all corners of our divided country. Our heads had been spinning last week after news of black men being killed by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, and a sniper taking aim and killing five police officers in Dallas in apparent retaliation. Racial tension ratcheted up as those numbing videos of black lives being ended by cops went viral on social media.
Hell, yes, black lives matter, and to co-opt the Black Lives Matter mantra (All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter) is to be blind to the root problem.
So as racism in America was again rising to the fore, Major League Baseball stars arrived in San Diego to decide who gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Then came a local news shocker. The suspect arrested in San Diego’s Homeless Killer case was released from custody. Capt. Nisleit said there wasn’t enough evidence to press charges. Unanswered questions are flying around town like so many foul balls.
I’m gong to say it and put this cause in its own folder: Homeless lives can’t be ignored. If you reply that all lives can’t be ignored please report to the principal’s office for your dunce cap.
Nisleit came out alone on Monday to face the press. He said this case is top priority, and he still believes the killer is the man caught on a convenience store surveillance video who’d just bought a gas can (two of the three homeless victims who died were burned while they slept). However, the police don’t have enough evidence at the moment to prove that man in the video is the person they arrested last week, 36-year-old Anthony Alexander Padgett.
So the homeless community is back on alert.
This is where the situation gets surreal. Prior to arresting Padgett, Nisleit had publicly warned the unsheltered homeless community not to sleep in secluded areas by themselves, but to stay in groups. The buddy system is always good advice. But it seems hypocritical; for months the city has been in high gear of sweeping encampments—“abatements” to ostensibly clean up trash—that discourage groups from sticking together in places like 17th Street in East Village. For whatever it’s worth, a major July 7 abatement was cancelled in light of the senseless violence and murders of homeless individuals, said city of San Diego public information officer Jose Ysea.
It’s uninspiring that the city catapulted into caring about homelessness only after a serial killer brought international media attention to the issue and when a major sporting event was in town.
And riddle me this: The SDPD attempts to keep homeless folks alive by advising them to sleep in groups. But when Pastor James Merino of The Dream Center aims to keep them alive by feeding them—blocks from Petco Park while the All-Star Game is here—the response from the men in blue is “we’ll bring the hammer down on you” if you do.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said her office would continue to assist in the investigation, according to a 10News report. “Our common goal is justice for the victims in this case and the safety of San Diego’s homeless as the investigation continues,” she said.
Homeless lives can’t be ignored—while a serial killer is at-large, or ever. Sad to say, a twisted individual is going around beating and burning homeless people. This, however, is just one more thing on a long list of dangers that, on a daily basis, threaten the lives of local people who sleep at night with no roof over their heads.