Another San Diego homeless man was set on fire and seriously injured Wednesday by an attacker police say struck while the man was asleep, the latest in a spate of attacks on transients that have left two dead. Police say the 23-year-old victim is not expected to survive upper-body injuries, the AP reports. They also say they believe the same suspect is behind all the attacks. A news release said the latest victim was set on fire, though Capt. David Nisleit said earlier that a witness pulled away a burning cloth that the attacker had placed on the victim before fleeing. It was the fourth attack in four days on homeless men in San Diego. The attacks that began over the Fourth of July weekend have set the city's homeless population on edge.
As in previous attacks, Wednesday's victim—whose identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin—was sleeping in the early morning hours when the assailant approached. Police have no information connecting the victims. "It's really hard to say what our suspect's motive is. All I can say is these are senseless attacks," Nisleit says. The Alpha Project, which provides temporary housing in San Diego, has dispatched eight people to canyons, freeway ramps, and other encampments to encourage transients to sleep in groups and in lighted areas, says Bob McElroy, the group's president. McElroy has been distributing pepper spray. "People are freaking out," he says. "This guy is systematically targeting people who are by themselves, kills them, and sets them on fire."