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LOS ANGELES -- A homeless man died after being doused with gasoline and set on fire on a street where he had lived for many years and was a familiar face to residents of Koreatown, police and local merchants said Friday.
Police were called to Third Street west of downtown Thursday evening and found the man, who was pronounced dead at a hospital.
A man in his 20s was seen throwing gasoline on the man, chasing him, throwing more on him and running from the scene, said Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz. Scorch marks stained a wall Friday where the man was burned.
The burning horrified even officers who routinely witness violent crimes, Diaz said.
"To murder somebody who's probably suffering from mental illness issues and not bothering anyone -- just a poor wretch on the street -- you've got to be a soulless nitwit to do something like this," he said.
The victim remained unidentified, and coroner's investigators might have to rely on fingerprints, Diaz said. Investigators canvassed the neighborhood Friday looking for evidence, witnesses and information about the victim.
Shopkeepers said the man was a fixture in the dense residential neighborhood at the northern edge of Koreatown, and residents were shocked to hear about his violent death.
Every day, the man drank a Dr Pepper, ate a bag of chips and smoked cigarettes, said Young Kim, who owns a nearby dry cleaner.
The homeless man had been in the area for at least 20 years but never bothered anyone or begged for money, Kim said. People gave him food, clothes and spare change.
"This is a terrible shame. He didn't deserve this. It's so cruel," said Jose Antonio Gonzalez, who owns a vitamin shop near where the man was found.
Gonzalez said some longtime residents called the man Johnny and believed he had fought in the Vietnam War and had a wealthy family somewhere. Gonzalez didn't know whether the stories were true.
"He didn't seem to have mental problems. He understood and spoke well. I don't know why he lived on the street," Kim said.
A witness, Thomas Lopez, told KCAL-TV he saw a teenager walk by the homeless man and pour something on him. Moments later the man was on fire.
"To actually see this guy on fire, it was unbelievable. Who would do such a thing?" Lopez said. "I took my shirt off and started putting him out."
The man, who paramedics thought was about 50 years old, had burns over 90 percent of his body, Fire Department spokeswoman d'Lisa Davies said.
Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission on downtown's Skid Row, said the incident was "part of a long history of people attacking vulnerable homeless individuals in Los Angeles."
"They think the person is less than human because they happen to be homeless. I don't know how you could do that to another human being," Bales said.

http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/national/BO91134/
 

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Hey bro that sucks....I cant help but put some blame on all of those bumfight videos, jackass videos...they definately have spawned a generation of cowards that do this kind of stuff to the homeless....
 

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You might be right. The area where this happened is in the heart of 18th Street gang territory so we're wondering if they had something to do with it, maybe some type of initiation. Nothing would surprise me anymore.
 

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Usually they just go out and shoot someone, not set them on fire but like I said, after 20 years on the streets out here, nothing would surpise me anymore.

If you watched the Gangland story on the History Channel that showed MS-13 and 18th Street, then you saw who I work around every day. Come on out and check it out!
 

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Not unless I can bring my M4.....do they ever take random shots at you guys out there...seems like a pretty dangerours area to be a Cop...
It is pretty dangerous, that's what makes it exciting and one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much!

Yes, they occasionally take shots at us just for the sake of taking a shot. What happens more frequently is we come across them during a traffic stop or a pedestrian stop when they are armed. They will take off running and fire at us while we're chasing them. I believe we have about 70 Officer Involved Shootings so far this year, which is down from the mid 90s when we would average about 140 OIS' a year.

You can't bring your M4 out with you but you can bring whatever sidearm you carry on-duty. Offer stands if you want to give it a try.
 
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