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Brazen Attack on Homeless Man in Downtown Santa Cruz

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Brazen Attack on Homeless Man in Downtown Santa Cruz

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 8th, a homeless man was punched in the face several times by a passerby who continued to yell and harrass the man even after he had fallen to the ground. The incident occurred on Cooper Street, near Pacific Avenue and O'Neil's Surf Shop. Though the assailant was apparently in view of the public for some time after the attack occurred, nobody on the scene attempted to apprehend or confront the man, according to one witness.

The victim, William Belyea, appeared to have suffered facial injuries and seemed agitated and upset after the attack. An emergency medical team was on the scene not long after the attack as was a sole police officer. One woman shouted at the police officer while he was attempting to communicate with the victim about the attack; the victim, who seemed intoxicated, started yelling at the police officer and was then handcuffed. A minute or so later, another police officer arrived and it appeared that they attempted to contact witnesses about the attack at that time.

Ann Simonton of MediaWatch witnessed the end of the attack from Pacific and Cooper. According to Simonton, the homeless man was hit about five times by a random passerby and no one attempted to intervene in the attack or pursue the assailant. She expressed frustration at what seemed to be a less-than-urgent response on the part of police to pursue the perpetrator of the attack. "They seem to be nonchalant about this, like they don't care about it (pursuing the assailant) at all. All they seem to care about is arresting the drunk man."

One downtown guide mentioned that s/he had seen Belyea a couple of times before and that he had never given anyone any trouble; he tended to keep to himself, according to the guide.

Description of the assailant: younger man, approximately 6ft. tall, medium build, wearing a navy and white striped shirt; black hair, appeared to be "Caucasian."

If you see this man, please contact the Santa Cruz Police Department at 911 or 471-1131.


From the National Coalition for the Homeless website:

Date of Issue: 6/28/05
For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Stoops (202) 462-4822, ext. 19; mstoops (at)

Hate Crimes & Violence Against Homeless People Increasing

Washington D.C. - For the past six years (1999-2004), the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has tracked and reported on a disturbing increase in crimes targeting homeless people. These violent attacks on homeless people, one of our most vulnerable populations, result in injury and in many cases death.

The well-documented affordable housing crisis is not the only crisis to affect the millions of people who are homeless every year. There is also an increasing pattern of civil rights abuses and violence directed at the homeless population. Homelessness is no longer simply an issue of the right to affordable housing but a matter of life and death. As the danger of living without a home increases, the lack of federal housing resources as well as the absence of the political will to end homelessness becomes increasingly more shameful.

In October of 2004, three Milwaukee teens murdered a homeless man at his forest campsite. The teens hit 49-year-old Rex Baum, with rocks, a flashlight, and a pipe, before smearing feces on his face and covering his body with leaves and plastic.
In August of 2004, Curtis Gordon Adams, 33, beat and stabbed a disabled homeless man to death and then licked the blood from his fingers on a Denver sidewalk.

More recently, on May 28th 2005, in Holly Hill, Florida, 53-year-old Michael Roberts was beaten and punched to death with sticks and logs by a group of teenagers who admitted to beating the man just for fun, to have something to do. The autopsy report indicates that Roberts died of blunt-force trauma to the head and body, his ribs were broken, his skull was fractured, and his legs were badly injured. Defensive wounds were found on his hands. The boys returned several times to make sure the job was done.

Homelessness is an issue that affects every community in America. Homeless people lack the protection of a locked door available to homeowners, leaving them in an unprotected position where they are subjected to hate crimes and violence. Sadly, the prevalence of hate crimes and violence against homeless people has risen, as well as negative stereotypes reinforced by the media and intolerant people.

Through this report, NCH hopes to educate lawmakers, advocates, and the public about the problem of hate crimes and violence against homeless people, as well as call for a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study addressing this issue.

This year's report, Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2004, includes data from news reports, advocates, victims' accounts, and homeless shelters on the number of homeless victimizations that have occurred in the past six years (for the full 2004 report and previous reports, please visit

Facts and Trends:

* The number of homeless deaths has risen by 67% since 2002.
* The number of non-lethal attacks against homeless people has risen by 281% since 2002.
* These crimes occurred in 140 cities in the past six years.
* These crimes occurred in 39 states, plus Puerto Rico.
* The age range of the accused/convicted ranged from 11 to 65 years of age.
* The age range of the victims ranged from 4 Months old to 74 Years of age.
* Gender of victims: 296 Male and 44 Female.

Request for U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Study:

U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-MI), along with the bipartisan support of 21 other members of Congress, is calling for a GAO study to assist Congress and the public in obtaining much-needed information on the extent and scope of violent acts and crimes against people experiencing homelessness. This request has been endorsed by nearly 500 local and national organizations.
"A GAO study is urgently needed to shed light on this frightening trend of hate crimes and violence. These horrific acts threaten the lives of over 3.5 million women, men and children experiencing homelessness each year," said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of NCH.

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Becerra, Xavier (D-CA)
Berman, Howard L. (D-CA)
Blumenauer, Earl (D-OR)
Clay, William Lacy (D-MO)
Conyers, John (D-MI)
Cummings, Elijah (D-MD)
Delahunt, William (D-MA)
DeLauro, Rosa (D-CT)
King, Steve (R-IA)
Larsen, Rick (D-WA)
Levin, Sander (D-MI)
Lofgren, Zoe (D-CA)
McDermott, James (D-WA)
Owens, Major (D-NY)
Payne, Donald (D-NJ)
Rangel, Charles (D-NY)
Schakowsky, Jan (D-IL)
Schiff, Adam (D-CA)
Solis, Hilda (D-CA)
Waters, Maxine (D-CA)
Wexler, Robert (D-FL)
Woolsey, Lynn (D-CA)

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Witness and Comment Phone Contacts

Much thanks to the person who posted this account, to Ann Simenton, and to other witnesses. This kind of documentation is an important first step to securing both individual justice and institutional change.

For those who witnessed the event or have any other info about it, please call HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) at 831-423-4833.

I'll also be talking about this tomorrow on Free Radio at 101.1 FM 9:30 AM (Sunday 7-10). Call-in number is 831-427-3772.


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