Homeless man burned to death on street

LOS ANGELES Eyewitness Thomas Lopez was visibly shaken by what he saw Thursday night. He was on 3rd Street near Berendo Street and New Hampshire Avenue around 9:45 p.m. when he saw a man jump out of a small car, douse a homeless man with some kind of flammable liquid, and then lit him on fire.

"I saw ... it was like a younger Hispanic guy - he ran right past me. As I was walking up, he ran in this direction and up the street. And there was like another car here. But, at that moment, I was trying to figure out what was going on and trying to make some sense out of it. Because it just happened in a split second. And, beyond that ... I just called the police and waited until they got here and gave them a statement and went on my way after that. But, it was unbelievable," said Lopez.

The LAPD confirms Lopez's story. Lopez, along with other neighbors, recognized the homeless man. "John", as they called him, had been a fixture in the neighborhood for about 20 years.

Police are asking for your help in finding the person or persons responsible for killing the man.

"This was a beloved man in our neighborhood," said Rita Mariorenzi, a Los Angeles resident. "People would stop their cars and go way out of their way to bring him food. People would pay for him to get haircuts and what have you. He was extremely gentle ... a very peaceful man. And this is absolutely devastating."

"So it's important now that the city step up to the plate immediately, take action. Because, if that doesn't happen, certainly with the tough economic times and the spread of homeless persons throughout the city of Los Angeles, we could see more attacks of this very heinous nature. So, it's time for action. That's the call that we're making," said Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "Also, we're really making the call to city officials, the LAPD and others who have any information are called to action. Help catch the killer."

If you have any information, you are urged to call the Los Angeles Police Department at (877) LAW-FULL, or (877) 529-3855.

"John" was described as a warm man who had striking blue eyes and wouldn't harm anyone.


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