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Homeless man almost beaten to death on Central

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A homeless man sleeping in the entryway of a hip Downtown coffee shop early Thursday morning was severely beaten and “clinging onto life” at University of New Mexico Hospital late in the afternoon.

Officer Simon Drobik, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said that around 3 a.m. police and paramedics were called to Central and Fifth, where they found a man with significant injuries lying at the entrance of Deep Space Coffee, a craft coffee house.

“When we checked him out initially it just looked like he was injured,” Drobik said. “When they got back to the hospital, the extent of his injuries were revealed – massive injuries to his head, to his person.”

Impact detectives in the Valley Area Command are investigating the case.

No suspects have been identified, but Drobik said security cameras across the street captured a silver sedan with several people inside stopping on Central and at least one person getting out and attacking someone. The incident lasted 45 seconds.

“At some point the car stops right here,” Drobik said, gesturing toward the street next to Deep Space Coffee. “The guy walks over to this cubbyhole here and you see him on camera battering the guy.”

He did not identify the victim but said he is homeless and well-known up and down Central.

“A lot of people know him,” he said. “He had prior injuries apparently. He’s been living on the streets and it’s a rough lifestyle. We want to find out who did this to him.”

Crime scene investigators and detectives could be seen along Central throughout the morning collecting evidence and examining the entrance of the coffee shop. Central Avenue was closed between Fifth and Sixth for much of the morning before it was cleared shortly after noon. The coffee shop remained closed throughout the day.

Steve Vatoseow, the owner of Lindy’s Diner next door, said he knew the man who had been beaten. He said he was in his 20s and had been hanging around the area for the past few years.

Drobik said it was too early to tell if the man was targeted because he was homeless or if there was another motive.

The beating comes just four days after a man was shot and killed on Central two blocks away. Police say they are not connected.

But both acts of violence occurred Downtown, where safety is a major concern even as efforts are underway to spruce up the area and attract more businesses and visitors. The previous administration under Mayor Richard Berry last year announced increased law enforcement measures, and current Mayor Tim Keller “is working with APD on a downtown policing plan to address the specific issues in this area,” Alicia Manzano, communications director for the mayor, said in a statement.

Security camera footage shows a silver sedan that police suspect was occupied by the person, or people, who beat a homeless man downtown early Thursday morning. (Courtesy Albuquerque Police Department)

“We’re focused on tackling crime from all sides, including hiring more officers, working with our businesses and neighborhoods, and addressing homelessness,” Manzano said.

Concerns about the city’s large homeless population has also taken center stage lately. Panhandling is prevalent throughout the city, but particularly Downtown, and tent cities continue to pop up.

Homeless people continue to be targets of violence, including two cases in which the victims were beheaded and one in which the victim was burned to death. Over the past two years, police have said almost 20 percent of the people killed had been experiencing homelessness or didn’t have a stable living situation.

The city and county have several initiatives in the works aimed at addressing the issue of homelessness.