Man accused in San Diego homeless attacks claims innocence

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A 36-year-old man was behind bars in San Diego Friday in connection with a fiery four-day crime spree in which two homeless men were killed and two others were critically injured.

Anthony Alexander Padgett was taken into custody in the area of Broadway and H Street in Chula Vista late Thursday morning in connection with the spate of violence, during which two of the victims were set ablaze, according to San Diego police. Padgett has since been booked into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson.

Authorities have declined to release a suspected motive for the assaults.

Investigators believe Padgett was the suspect seen in surveillance video buying gasoline at a convenience store shortly before the body of the first victim, 53-year-old Angelo De Nardo of San Diego, was found in flames Sunday morning in an open area off the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard in Bay Park, San
Diego police Capt. David Nisleit told reporters. An autopsy determined that De Nardo died prior to being set on fire.

Padgett is also suspected of wounding 61-year-old Manuel Mason in an area near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district shortly before 5 a.m. on the Fourth of July. Mason remains hospitalized in critical condition, police said.

Less than 90 minutes after the assault on Mason, 41-year-old Shawn Longley was found dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach.

About 5 a.m. Wednesday, a 23-year-old man was gravely injured in the area of Broadway and State Street, and a towel he was sleeping under was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze, according to police. The victim, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized in grave condition and had a poor prognosis for survival, officials said.

Authorities have declined to disclose the cause of the victims’ non-fire-related injuries, though Nisleit said all four victims had suffered significant trauma to their upper bodies.

According to media reports, Padgett was convicted of mayhem and sentenced to four years in prison for a 2010 attack on a 49-year-old homeless friend, who was also set ablaze, in Chula Vista.

Nisleit said detectives would be reviewing other recent assaults against the local homeless population to determine whether they might be related to this week’s series of attacks.

Since the attacks began, authorities have been warning the homeless to protect themselves by remaining vigilant and aware of their surroundings, avoiding sleeping alone on the streets and staying in open, well-lit areas.

Late Thursday morning, Father Joe’s Villages, a major local homeless services provider, announced that it was seeking funding to provide additional beds at its downtown St. Vincent de Paul Village shelter as a means of helping protect those who have nowhere else to stay.

San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman described the attacks as "evil acts of violence” that "are some of the worst that I have seen in my 34 years in law enforcement.”

Speaking from the back of a police car, Padgett told reporters that he is innocent.

Related Links

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Categories: Local San Diego News