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Masked attack

Police look for leads after assailants batter homeless


Nearly three weeks have passed since the brutal nighttime beating of three homeless men as they camped in below-freezing weather under a bridge north of downtown.

During the April 8 incident, an unknown number of assailants, wearing masks or stockings on their faces, used rocks and their fists to assault the men.

Two of the men walked into the emergency room at Penrose Hospital after the incident. With head injuries, punctured lungs and broken bones, they were admitted to an intensive care unit in serious condition, says Colorado Springs police Detective Joe Matiatos, adding that he could not elaborate further because of medical privacy laws. The men have recently been released from the hospital.

The brutality of the beatings at the bridge near North Cascade Avenue and East Van Buren Street has surprised advocates for the homeless.

Greg Morris, of the Homeless Health Center, regularly patrols the streets to offer the homeless medical assistance. To him, the April 8 incident sounds like the so-called "bum bashings" recently reported around the country, including the January killings of three homeless men in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by assailants with baseball bats.

Morris worries media reports of that incident might have inspired copycat violence locally.

Matiatos, however, is unsure. He says no similar incidents have occurred in Colorado Springs since April 8.

"As far as I know, we don't have a pattern," he says.

Colorado Springs police last investigated a seemingly related string of assaults against homeless people, including at least one killing, in 2000. That year, seven homeless men also were murdered on the streets of Denver.

Stephen Handen, who runs a small shelter on the city's west side, says life in Colorado Springs is tough for the homeless, especially those that camp outdoors.

Early Sunday morning, police investigated the stabbing and beating of a homeless man at Nevada Avenue, south of West Cimarron Street. According to the police blotter, it appears to have come at the hands of another homeless man.

"It's fearful out there," Handen says. "I just took a guy in who sleeps outdoors. He's scared to be out there scared to be robbed, beaten."

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