Police arrest two teens in alleged Ocean Street attack on homeless man

Close-up of the back a Santa Cruz police cruiser, with caution tape
(Via Santa Cruz Police Department)

Santa Cruz Police Department investigators are still trying to understand what initiated an attack on a homeless male on Ocean Street on Friday night; Scotts Valley police have arrested two teens on assault charges. While attacks on homeless people seem to be on the rise nationally, there is little tracking of such violence, and none locally. Local police could not recall a similar case here and acknowledge it is likely incidents are underreported.

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Santa Cruz Police Department investigators suspect two local teens assaulted a homeless man Friday evening.

As police arrived on the scene on the 1400 block of Ocean Street, they found the 53-year-old male victim semiconscious and with head injuries.

He was transported to a Bay Area trauma center in critical condition and is now recovering from his injuries, according to Santa Cruz Police Chief Bernie Escalante.

Following an investigation, Scotts Valley police arrested the teens on Monday and took the 16-year-old Scotts Valley resident and 14-year-old Santa Cruz resident, both students at Scotts Valley High School, to Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall on the charge of assault by means likely to cause great bodily injury.

The Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office was considering how to proceed as of Wednesday morning.

The incident comes at a time when cases of violence against homeless people have been making national headlines across the country. Tracking those cases is difficult, as many law enforcement agencies don’t monitor the residential status of victims, according to the Associated Press.

The Los Angeles Police Department does. In 2021, 90 homeless people were victims of the city’s 397 total homicides. The homeless population there is about 40,000.

The Santa Cruz and Watsonville police departments don’t track cases of violence against homeless people specifically. Escalante and Watsonville Police public information officer Michelle Pulido both told Lookout they would have to look at individual reports to provide a number of cases of violence against homeless people. Neither could recall a case in recent memory.

Lookout had not heard back from the Scotts Valley Police Department at publication time.

Santa Cruz police investigators were still trying to understand what initiated the incident on Friday evening, Escalante said. He said when a case appears to be motivated by the assumed appearance of an individual, his agency takes it very seriously.

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