RENO — The city’s homeless population is on edge after the beating death of a homeless man by two teenagers and other reported attacks.
“They think we’re fair game for sports. It’s a teenage ego trip,” said Charles Johnson, a homeless and disabled man living in Reno.
Christopher Michael Maciolek, 19, and Finley Byrdette Fultz, 18, were arrested Friday on suspicion of open murder for the beating death this month of 55-year-old James Beasley.
According to an arrest affidavit, two teenagers witnessed the attack on Beasley and another man on Labor Day.
The teens watched two men beat a homeless man in Wingfield Park, then walk across the footbridge into Brick Park and attack Beasley, who had been sleeping on a park bench. The men kicked and stomped on Beasley’s head and torso, the affidavit said.
Police found Beasley unconscious on First Street. He was pronounced dead at a hospital less than 24 hours later.
Detectives said Maciolek admitted he beat Beasley, but Fultz denied any involvement and said witnesses were lying.
Operators of shelters say more homeless people are seeking refuge at night out of fear of being attacked.
“Most are scared to sleep outside,” said Mark Mallory, assistant manager for the Men’s Drop-In Center. “They think someone will try to kill them in their sleep. This escalation in violence is outrageous.”
Police said other reports of assaults against the homeless have not been linked to any suspects.
In Sparks, two homeless men reported that a group of four to six teens beat them in Deer Park and sprayed them with pepper spray in an unprovoked attack.
Reno police also found threatening graffiti against the homeless on park benches downtown.