Police in Nevada executed an ingenious plan to find a man suspected of murdering at least two homeless men, utilizing a mannequin to lure him into an opportunity to kill for a third time.
In the wake of two separate cases of Las Vegas vagrants being bludgeoned to death as they slept, two more statistics in a growing trend of homeless victimization in the United States.
Trying to determine if the killings -which took place about a month’s time from each other- was part of a larger pattern, local law enforcement devised a plan to set a clever trap: placing a mannequin (wrapped in blankets to resemble a sleeping homeless person) at the scene of the first murder, in hopes that the killer would strike again.
Less than twenty days after the second grisly killing, police surveillance cameras placed at the dummy site captured 30-year-old Shan Schindler casing the area for witnesses before pulling a 4-pound hammer from a plastic bag and striking the dummy, hitting the mannequin’s head several times.
Monitoring the footage in real-time, police quickly flooded the scene and took Schindler into custody.
According to police reports, “Schindler admitted to ‘kicking the mannequin’ but didn’t remember hitting it with a hammer. After further questioning, Schindler admitted to striking the mannequin, but he said he ‘knew it was a mannequin’ before he struck it.”
Schindler is just one of many individuals that has been found targeting homeless people, which homelessness advocacy groups claim is a rising issue across the country. In fact, one report produced last year shows that nearly 1,700 homeless people have been violently victimized since 1999 by non-homeless people.
In 2014, three teenagers in New Mexico’s largest city were charged with first-degree murder after beating two homeless men to death with bricks and sticks. A year later a homeless man was stabbed to death in the capital of Colorado. Just last year, a San Diego man carried out a two-week campaign of attacks that left three vagrants dead.
“We have found that negative attitudes towards the homeless community manifest in regular discrimination and even violence, committed for no other reason than that a homeless person is seen as less than human,” National Coalition for the Homeless director Megan Hustings said. “It is our civic duty, more importantly our human responsibility, to provide safety … to these individuals.”
Coalition for the Homeless deputy director Shelly Nortz said it was “good to see police [in Las Vegas] aggressively pursuing a suspect.” However, she noted that “a municipal right to shelter is also needed to help homeless people avoid street violence until they can regain their footing and move into homes of their own.”
According to the LA Times, the towns of Las Vegas and Henderson are home to at least 6,200 homeless (accounted for during a two-day research period), with over 30,000 people in that area of Nevada experiencing homelessness in a year’s time.
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