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Chula Vista Man Arrested In San Diego Homeless Attacks

San Diego police Capt. David Nisleit briefs reporters about a string of attacks on homeless men, July 7, 2016.
Nicholas McVicker
San Diego police Capt. David Nisleit briefs reporters about a string of attacks on homeless men, July 7, 2016.

News reports say the suspect was convicted in 2010 for setting a fellow transient on fire in the South Bay

Chula Vista Man Arrested In San Diego Homeless Attacks
San Diego police arrested Anthony Padgett at 10 a.m. near Broadway and H streets in Chula Vista, homicide Capt. David Nisleit said at an evening news conference.

UPDATE: 8:30 p.m., July 7, 2016

The man San Diego police took into custody Thursday in connection with attacks on four homeless men was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of setting a fellow transient on fire while he slept, according to 10News and court records.

In January 2010, Anthony Padgett, 36, was arrested on attempted murder and mayhem charges after his friend was set on fire. The victim suffered second- and third-degree burns to at least 30 percent of his body, according to 10News.

A story in The Star-News in November of that year said Padgett was sentenced to four years in state prison on the mayhem charge. The District Attorney's Office had sought an eight-year sentence.

UPDATE: 7 p.m., July 7, 2016

San Diego police arrested a Chula Vista man Thursday morning for a series of attacks on homeless men that left two dead and two others hospitalized in serious condition.

Officers arrested Anthony Padgett at 10 a.m. near Broadway and H streets in Chula Vista, homicide Capt. David Nisleit said at an evening news conference.

Nisleit said Padgett, 36, will be charged with "several counts" of murder and attempted murder. The captain would not explain how police connected Padgett to the assaults, saying he hopes additional witnesses will come forward to help police tie up the case.

"We have all hands in still," Nisleit said. "You will still see tonight the full contingency of our plan, extra officers patrolling, looking for witnesses."

Padgett is suspected in a four-day crime spree that began Sunday morning in Bay Park, when the body of a homeless man was found burning.

UPDATE: 6 p.m., July 7, 2016

San Diego police have called a news conference for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. An update is expected in the search for the wanted man in the recent attacks on homeless men in San Diego.

Original post

A homeless man who was attacked and set on fire Wednesday morning in downtown San Diego remains hospitalized in grave condition, police Capt. David Nisleit said at a Thursday morning news conference. Police will not publicly identify the 23-year-old man until his family can be notified of his condition.

Manuel Mason, 61, another homeless man who was found Monday in the Midway District with significant trauma to his upper torso, was still in critical condition, Nisleit said.

A photo of the suspect San Diego police say is responsible for attacks on four homeless men, two of which were fatal.
San Diego Police Department
A photo of the suspect San Diego police say is responsible for attacks on four homeless men, two of which were fatal.

Police said they have not been able to speak to the men, and are doubling down on their call for the public's help in identifying and locating the suspect in the assaults.

Police believe the man is also responsible for two homicides — the beating and burning of 53-year-old Angelo DeNardo of San Diego in Bay Park on Sunday and the fatal beating of 41-year-old Shawn Longley at Robb Athletic Field in Ocean Beach on Monday. Both men are believed to have been homeless.

Contrary to some news reports, Nisleit said, none of the men were stabbed. All had significant trauma to their upper torsos.

The suspect was captured on surveillance footage taken from a Bay Park convenience store shortly before Sunday's attack. Police are asking anyone with information on the man seen in the footage to call Crime Stoppers. A $1,000 reward has been offered.

Police were hoping for clearer images of the man from surveillance cameras near the scene of the Wednesday incident downtown. The attack happened between condo complexes near the federal courthouse. But Nisleit said there is not yet any new footage of the suspect.

Police fanned out across the city last night and this morning, following leads that are coming in "by the minute," Nisleit said.

"(Our) two-pronged approach was to prevent the next case and try to identify, locate and arrest our suspect, who's been depicted in photographs and videos," Nisleit said. "We were all over the place. We were on foot, we were on quads and we talked to a lot of people. I want to thank the public for all their leads."

Nisleit asked San Diegans taking public transit to pay particularly close attention. Detectives believe the locations of the crimes indicate the suspect may be using public transit.

"If they see a person that they believe is our suspect, I want them to call 911," Nisleit said. "I do not want them making contact with the subject. If they can, keep him in eyesight. We will get officers there immediately."

Surveillance video of person of interest

Anyone with additional information on the cases was asked to call police at (619) 531-2293. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477, or by contacting the agency via email at sdcrimestoppers.org.

Meanwhile, police and volunteers are still telling San Diego's homeless to remain alert and stay in groups.

Father Joe's Villages said in a news release Thursday that it is still looking for funding to offer an additional 100 shelter beds for homeless individuals who fear for their safety.

Bob McElroy, head of homeless service provider the Alpha Project, said he opened the doors of his housing facility on Market and 14th streets to the homeless on Wednesday night, but nobody came. He said the homeless preferred to stay near the places and people they know. His cafeteria can shelter an additional 50 individuals.

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell said service providers and public agencies should focus on getting "into every nook and cranny" of the city to warn homeless individuals of the danger, as many have already been doing. McConnell said having more volunteers present in the community would put homeless individuals at ease and might help ward off future attacks.

Such outreach is happening as downtown hosts its first All-Star Game events Thursday and Friday. The game is scheduled for Tuesday at Petco Park.

Before the attacks began Sunday, much of the focus downtown was on cleaning up the areas where homeless sleep in the East Village. Many believed the weekly cleanups were in preparation for Tuesday's game.

A spokeswoman for the city said Thursday's cleanup was canceled because there were no officers available to assist city crews. She said the next cleanup is scheduled for July 18.

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