Imagine the macabre scene: the most vulnerable of our society, those without homes or resources, found dead of gunshot wounds on Atlanta Streets within miles of each other. Perhaps more disturbingly, the police state they can find no motive and the only connection seems to be that they were both homeless men.
Both men were shot outside, apparently as they slept, according to Atlanta police. One of the victims has been identified as Tommy Mims, 64, and police continue to try to identify the second victim, an African-American male believed to be in his 40s. Both shootings have occurred in the evening, when there may not be as much pedestrian traffic.
For now, all police can do is warn Atlanta’s homeless to be on guard, try not to sleep outside or in remote areas, and use a buddy system. This may prove more challenging than it sounds; if the homeless had an indoor place to stay and connections with others, their chances of being homeless would be far less.
Anita Beaty, of the Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, told NBC that the word is being spread through homeless shelters and on the streets that the homeless should be vigilant and use a ‘buddy system.’
‘It’s bad enough that you’re sleeping outside in the cold, but to be murdered? We will be making fliers to not sleep outside alone, come inside when you can, and use the ‘buddy system’ whenever possible.”
Mims was found shot dead under this bridge on the sidewalk in North Atlanta.
Atlanta, like most large cities, has a high homeless population, though exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint as most homeless are transient. The FBI has forensic psychologists who specialize in trying to define the characteristics of the killer, but it is difficult to imagine who would want to kill random homeless people. Complicating the situation is the fact that homeless people have higher than average rates of addiction and mental illness, making them likely targets due to impaired judgment.
Police do not believe the killings are the result of robberies or disputes. It is possible that they are “thrill kills,” which simply means the killer gets psychological satisfaction from the kill, and is unlikely to stop until he or she is captured.
While the homeless have faced many challenges, including being exposed to elements, hunger, and lack of medical care, they were never particularly victims of violence as compared to the general population. Until the serial killer is captured, the most vulnerable among us become even more so.
[images by NBC]