Police suspect a recent blaze in a Los Angeles homeless encampment was set intentionally, in what they’re investigating as an attempted murder. It’s the second time in recent weeks that authorities along the West Coast have said someone set fire to a tent city to target the homeless.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said Tuesday that police arrested two 25-year-old men, Daniel Nogueira and Brian Araujo Cabrera, Saturday on suspicion of attempted murder after they allegedly set fire to the Eagle Rock encampment last week. The arrest followed last week’s jailing of Roy Elworthy in Portland on accusations that he set fire to a homeless encampment Aug. 15 because he was angry at “police not enforcing laws against homeless people,” according to the Oregonian.
It’s not clear how the Eagle Rock fire was set or why the men might’ve started it, according to the Los Angeles Times, but the flames sparked a brush fire that threatened about 100 homes. Anonymous law enforcement sources told NBC Los Angeles that the fire was ignited after a man in a blue pickup truck started “exchanging words” with people in the homeless encampment. Nearly 300 firefighters were forced to respond to the blaze, which took nearly 48 hours to contain completely, according to LAist.
Nobody was severely injured apart from a firefighter who was mildly hurt, and no structures were destroyed, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Another large fire in the Sepulveda Basin part of LA displaced 100 homeless people in late July.
Nearly 60,000 people in Los Angeles County are homeless — a crisis that’s been attributed to a lack of affordable housing in the region.
Portland also struggles with street homelessness, although its problem is far less severe when compared to Los Angeles; nearly 2,000 people live outside in Multnomah County. The city’s fire department has responded to nearly 1,000 homeless-related fires in the past three years, according to local NBC affiliate KGW8. The fire allegedly set by Elworthy started after he ignited a wooden storage box outside a homeless man’s tent, according to the Oregonian.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is still weighing criminal charges against Nogueria and Cabrera, and has referred Cabrera’s case back to detectives for a more thorough investigation into his involvement, according to the Times. Prosecutors are also determining whether to press attempted murder charges against Nogueria for the fire that started the afternoon of Aug. 25.
Nogueira was released from jail on a $1 million bond, according to the Times, and his father appears to be the president of the local Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce. He’s scheduled to appear in court later this month.
Cabrera appears to still be in jail, according to county records, and it’s unclear when he’ll appear in court next.
Their arrests followed another grisly, Los Angeles-based case of arson against the homeless. Dwayne Fields, a homeless musician living in the city’s infamous skid row community, was in his tent last week when another man set his belongings on fire. Fields tried to escape — officers found him walking down the street, his body still burning — but died last Tuesday.
The man charged with Fields’ murder, Jonathan Early, may have also been homeless, according to the Los Angeles Times. It’s unclear why Fields was targeted.
And in July, another homeless person’s tent was set on fire — that time in Austin, Texas — when a person threw a lit firework from their car.
Cover: A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)