Glendale, CA – A California man has been charged with attempted murder for lighting a homeless man on fire and taking photos of the aftermath.
The attack occurred near the intersection of East Harvard Street and South Brand Boulevard just before 1:20 a.m. on Sept. 12, the Glendale Police Department said in a press release.
Glendale police and firefighters responded to a report of a “small fire on the sidewalk,” and arrived to find a pile of cardboard ablaze, according to the release.
Investigators learned that a homeless man had been sleeping beneath the boxes when he was awakened by the smell of smoke.
That’s when he realized that the boxes he was under had been set on fire.
The man scrambled to douse the flames with bottled water, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, but is unclear whether or not the victim suffered any injuries.
Glendale detectives subsequently located video surveillance footage of the scene, which showed a man approaching the boxes and intentionally setting them on fire.
The suspect, later identified as 32-year-old Richard Smallets, then stood back and photographed the blaze.
Police located Smallets at Central Park, and arrested him for arson of an inhabited structure or property, The New York Times reported.
One day after the attack, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed an attempted murder charge against Smallets, who remains in custody on a $1 million bail, according to police.
The suspect pleaded not guilty on Sept. 16, KTLA reported.
He is due back in court on Oct. 30, according to The New York Times.
Glendale Police Department (GPD) spokesperson Tahnee Lightfoot said she couldn’t say whether Smallets knew the victim, The New York Times reported.
“When folks are unhoused, they’re vulnerable to all sorts of things, whether it’s the weather, violence, or criminalization and incarceration as a result of the fact that they’re unhoused,” Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles Senior Attorney Shayla Myers told The New York Times.
Approximately half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lives in California, according to the paper.
As of June, the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County was up 12 percent from the year prior, The New York Times reported.
An estimated 44,000 of those 59,000 citizens had no shelter.