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Homeless man fatally beaten in Santa Ana camp

July 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is growing community concern about a growing homeless encampment in Orange County, where a man was killed Saturday. Those who live close by fear there could be more crime to come.Bristol Street, a main thoroughfare through Santa Ana, is an area that's been under construction. Part of a neighborhood beautification project is a decorative wall. Few people driving by realize that living under a black tarp draped over the wall are homeless people. A homeless man was murdered there on Saturday.

Al Hernandez works hard to fix up his Santa Ana home. It's been in his family for 60 years. It's frustrating for him to see what's going on across the street.

"I don't like it. I don't like it all," said Hernandez. "I wish they would find somewhere else."

An encampment across the street from his house sometimes has more than a dozen homeless men with dirty mattresses, broken furniture, alcohol and garbage littered on the ground.

"They urinate and things like that. It's the worst part of it," said Hernandez.

"Everybody hassles us," said Jose Panamino, who is homeless.

Some say they've lived here for at least two years, hidden from busy Bristol St. by a decorative wall that's part of a project to widen the street. A city official says a black tarpaulin covering the wall helps reduce graffiti.

"Ever since the wall went up, more people kept coming to where the homeless stay, right there, under the black tarp," said "Martha," a Santa Ana resident.

Martha doesn't want us to show her face because she worries about her safety.

"We think they're selling drugs right there and I don't think it's very safe for children that walk by here or us that live here, said Martha.

Saturday morning, 36-year-old Marcos Nieto, a father of three children, was killed.

His friends say he's been homeless for the past six months.

One witness said the suspect kicked him and crushed his head with a concrete block.

Police say 33-year-old Jorge Lopez is now in custody.

"He's refusing to state why he did what he did to this victim," said Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

Police say this is the first murder in the encampment, unsettling for neighbors who wish the city would step in to clean it up.

"I think they should take some drastic measures, because next thing you know somebody else is going to die, said Martha.

City officials did not return phone calls about the crime Tuesday.


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