Police hunt for suspects in homeless beatings
Assailants used bats or sticks in attacks on 3 men, one of whom later died
MSNBC TV VIDEO
• Homeless beatings
Jan. 13: Florida police are searching for men caught on video tape beating a homeless man. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Police say they will seek murder charges against the attackers who beat a homeless man to death and are suspected in two similar attacks a few hours later.
The first attack was caught on a university surveillance video before dawn Thursday. Police were looking for two to four young men.
“It’s senseless. If you look at these kids, it was almost like it was fun and games for them,” Officer Scott Russell said.
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Norris Gaynor, 45, was attacked later as he slept near the Broward Center for Performing Arts and died from his injuries at a hospital Thursday, police said. The other victims, both hospitalized in serious condition, have not been identified.
The video from Florida Atlantic University shows two men chasing and beating a man who had been sleeping on a bench. “It looked like they were going for the head,” Detective Katherine Collins said.
The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that as the two teens ran off, headlights from a car or truck could be seen shining westward on the scene on Las Olas Boulevard. Authorities said Thursday they were looking for a white van with no markings.
The 58-year-old man found a security guard, who called for help, and the victim was hospitalized with head trauma and defensive fractures, authorities said.
Gaynor was beaten about 90 minutes later in a chillingly similar attack. He had been sleeping on a secluded park bench near the performing arts center, police said.
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Another 90 minutes after that, a third homeless man flagged down a fire crew passing a church and said he had been attacked while he slept.
NBC reported that the Salvation Army was opening an emergency shelters for the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, something the group usually does only on extremely cold nights.
Four teenagers pleaded guilty last month to fatally beating a 53-year-old homeless man in Daytona Beach in May. They await sentencing next month. A fifth teen still faces still faces an aggravated battery charge and is free on bail.
In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, an advocate for the homeless said beating homeless people is quite common in the area.
"It's one of the shameful secrets we have, the beating of homeless for sport," said Marti Forman, CEO of the Cooperative Feeding Program told Sun-Sentinel. "It's a recreation thing, it's an initiation for gangs and fraternities."
She said she hoped the fact that videotape of the brutality would generate outrage at this type of crime.
The Associated Press contributed and NBC contributed to this report.