Messages of support, flowers and candles marked the spot Sunday night where police say a sleeping homeless man was doused with lighter fluid and set on fire by three attackers in Ventura, California.
Community members of the quiet seaside town have been shaken up since learning that 58-year-old John Frazier was set ablaze near the San Buenaventura State Beach just before 11 p.m. Saturday.
"I'm just flabbergasted. I can't believe, first of all, that somebody would do that,” said Ventura resident Melanie Sardo. “And second of all I come here almost everyday and I've never seen anything like that."
A passerby rescued Frazier, who suffered burns and was taken to a local hospital, police said.
The rescuer described flames as high as 5 to 6 feet to police, and helped put out the fire by throwing sand on him before calling 911, Ventura Police Department Sgt. Kenny Welch said.
Police and firefighters arrived at South Seaward Avenue to find Frazier and some of his belongings still smoldering.
“I think it’s pretty sick that somebody could actually do that to another human,” said Phill Keller of Ventura. “He’d come over here and sit here. He was harmless. He never hurt anybody.”
Police confirmed that Frazier was sleeping in his sleeping bag when he awoke to three males pouring lighter fluid on him before lighting him on fire.
The attackers were described as three males in their late teens to early 20's, with shaved heads, dressed in dark clothing, Welch said.
Elaine Lutz said she spoke to the victim last week and says, as far as she knows, he never bothered anyone or caused any trouble.
"We were talking about how beautiful the sunset was and the fish sculptures and how nice the evening was and he was just a really nice guy," Lutz said.
Frazier, described by police as a "vagrant," was taken to Community Memorial Hospital, where he was later transported to a burn unit for second- and third-degree burns to his upper torso and face.
The burns covered up to 40 percent of Frazier's torso and extremities. His condition was unknown, but he was expected to survive, police said.
“They should be caught and they should be tried for attempted murder,” said another community member, Kelly Moore. “This is not something to be forgot and be forgiven.”
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to contact the Ventura Police Department at 805-339-4309.