Suspected Serial Killer Targeting Homeless People in Atlanta (UPDATE 1)

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300_homeless_flyer(APN) ATLANTA — What Atlanta police suspect to be a dangerous and sick predator has killed two vulnerable homeless men, under the cover of darkness, while they slept outside in the downtown Atlanta area.  Two murders a few days apart and two miles apart has homeless people living in fear.

The first victim, Dorian Jenkins, was shot numerous times while sleeping in a park on Ralph McGill Boulevard and Courtland Street.  His unresponsive body was found Sunday, November 23, 2014; and a few days later a second victim, Tommy Mims, was found similarly murdered near Whitehall Street and Northside Avenue under a railroad bridge.

Jenkins was in his mid 40’s and his street name was “Sidewinder.”  He stayed off and on at the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless at Peachtree and Pine Streets.  Sadly, Saturday night, he slept in the park only a few blocks from the safety of the homeless shelter.

Mims was 64 years old and his street name was “Can Man.”

“We are concerned about the similarities in both murders.  The similarities are, both appear to have been sleeping when they were shot, both were shot multiple times, and we believe both were shot sometime in the evening… most likely after midnight but before morning.  It appears the homeless are being targeted,” Atlanta Police Department Captain Paul Guerrucci said in homicide press conference on Wednesday, November 26.

A two thousand dollar reward is offered on this case and anyone with information can remain anonymous.  Please call investigator David Quinn with any information at 404-245-8039 or call Crimestoppers at 404-577-TIPS.

Many organizations and individuals are distributing flyers to homeless citizens to warn them of the murders.  The flyers warn the homeless community to travel in pairs or small groups.  They are advised to go to the nearest shelter to sleep inside and do not sleep alone on the streets of Atlanta.

“We’ve made flyers and are handing them out to the residents and asking them to help with the outreach to people under bridges and everywhere around town.  The men and women who stay with us know where people are …. we are seriously reaching out on the streets,” Anita Beaty, Executive Director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, told Atlanta Progressive News.

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has documented thousands of crimes committed against homeless people for fifteen years.  The trend nationally has shown a steady increase in attacks starting in 1999.

Their statistics show the most common perpetrators of homeless hate crimes are young, White males under the age of thirty.

Societal attitudes that blame or punish homeless people for their misfortune contribute to the violence.

Movies that devalue homeless people like the “Bum Fight” videos, popular about ten years ago, dehumanize and encourage violence against homeless people for entertainment.  Those videos depict blood and violent as homeless people fight each other with broken bottles for a little bit of money from the promoters of those inhumane fights.

“We demonstrated, and it was a huge effort to get those videos out of Blockbusters, Kmart, Walmart, and other stores,” Beaty said.

Cities that create policies that criminalize the daily activities of homeless people undermine their human rights and ability to survive.  For example, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recently enacted a ban on feeding homeless people in public places, and has put a ninety year-old World War II veteran in jail for feeding homeless people in recent weeks.

Instead of laws to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness, more and more cities are passing laws to criminalize homeless people in an effort to remove them from urban areas and away from resources and attempting to make them invisible.

Anti-camping, anti-sleeping, anti-panhandling, and anti-loitering ordinances create criminal records that make it even harder for homeless people to get employment or housing.  These laws violate their civil and human rights and makes them third class citizens, and create a growing and permanent underclass in the United States, according to homeless advocates.

“People attack homeless people because they think they can get away with it, the homeless won’t fight back or report it, and society doesn’t care,” Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at NCH, told APN.

“When a City like Atlanta demonized the homeless population, it gave the impression to immature young people that society approves of attacking homeless individuals.  We think there is a correlation between the criminalization of homelessness, hate crimes, and violence against the homeless population,” Stoops said.

“Over thirty percent of the nation’s homeless are living outside and that is both dangerous and unhealthy.  That is why shelters like the one at Peachtree and Pine are crucial for survival,” Stoops said.

“I think this is an opportunity for everyone to become sensitized to the fact that life on the street is a life and death issue anyway.  These two murders have proven that in the most terrifying way.  The weather is bad enough, but then to risk your life to be outside because you can’t find a place to go inside, or you don’t want to because you are afraid of people, and then to be a target like that is absolutely unthinkable.  Let’s all think about this and care about people we see homeless, and try to do something to help,” Beaty said.

U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) are co-sponsors of a federal bill, HR 1136, the Violence Against the Homeless Accountability Act of 2013.

It was introduced March 13, 2013, and has 24 co-sponsors but currently is not expected to pass committee or be enacted.

(END/2014)

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Fort Lauderdale had banned feeding homeless people, but the ban only affects feeding in public places.

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