Wilmington Police Search For Teens Who Abused Homeless Man

An investigation into the vandalism of potted plants has evolved into a police search for two young men who they say harassed and abused a homeless man early this month.
The Wilmington Police Department released a surveillance video Tuesday and have asked the public to help identify the two young men shown abusing a man trying to sleep.
Police allege that early in the morning of Aug. 2, a Saturday, the pair threw flowers and dirt on the homeless man as he slept and then stole money from him and even urinated on him.
An official who works with homeless people in Wilmington said assaults on them aren’t unusual, in part because criminals believe it will go unreported.
The Aug. 2 incident, which occurred sometime between 2 and 7 a.m. in front of a building at 124 Walnut St., is a perfect example.
Police didn’t realize a homeless man had been victimized until they reviewed the surveillance tape with a business owner, according to a statement from Lucy Crockett, spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department.
The business owner initially reported vandalism to large planters in front of the building, according to the statement. Although the tape shows the victim get up and try to fend off the young men, he didn’t report the crime to police.
When officers tracked him down later, he said he was intoxicated and didn’t remember much of what happened.
The problem
A review of the ‘Star-New’ archive shows that attacks on homeless people aren’t unheard of and that some of them turn deadly.
Last summer, in western North Carolina, two homeless men were killed in separate incidents in Gastonia and Statesville, according to the Associated Press. Teenagers were arrested and charged in both cases.
In Wilmington in the fall of 2004, Joe Louis Bradshaw, 42, was beaten so badly in an alley off North Front Street that he died months later of complications from his injuries. Two men later were convicted in his murder.
Katrina Knight, executive director of the Good Shepherd Center, which serves the hungry and homeless in Wilmington, said tracking how often homeless people are victimized is difficult.
But sleeping outside and in some cases, mental illness or a lack of social connections, makes them easy targets, she said.
These factors, combined with homeless people being unlikely to report crime, makes them far more apt to be victims of a crime than to commit a crime themselves, she said.
Knight also said an increase in gang activity in Wilmington in the past year has made attacks against the homeless more common. In most cases, when homeless people leave the shelter and are assaulted, the attackers are young people alleged to be involved in a gang, she said.
Good Shepherd staff members encourage homeless people to stay at the shelter at night and not be out alone, Knight said.
Still, no matter the circumstances, she said abuses such as the one recently caught on tape shouldn’t happen.
“I’m glad the police found that and that they agree we shouldn’t stand for it,” Knight said. “We shouldn’t accept it in a community like this.”
By David Reynolds