Homeless Man Set on Fire, Burning 50 Percent of His Body

Police in Santa Monica, California, are seeking an individual who set a sleeping homeless man on fire about 11:35 p.m. October 16. The attack left the man with burns on 50 percent of his body.

"A homeless male was asleep in Ozone Park when he was doused with an unknown liquid, then set on fire," Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) Lieutenant Rudy Flores said in a press release.

Ozone Park is a small neighborhood park approximately one mile east of Venice Beach.

Police didn't release the victim's name. However, they said the man also had a 2-inch laceration on the top of his head, possibly from blunt force trauma. The victim is currently in stable condition and recovering at a local hospital.

Santa Monica homeless man set on fire
Officers with the Santa Monica Police Department are searching for a suspect who set a homeless man on fire, leaving 50 percent of the victim's body covered in burns. PamWalker68/Getty

SMPD officers described the assailant as a man between 5'6" and 5'8" tall. On the night of the attack, the attacker wore a hat, a long-sleeved white shirt and dark shorts. Police have asked anyone with information to contact them.

When a human body is set aflame, the flame can run hundreds or thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, according to The Los Angeles Times. If a person's clothes catch fire, it can cause the flames to burn hotter and deeper.

The flames cause the skin and muscle underneath to shrink, due to loss of water and blood. If the flames reach the fat layer under the skin, the fat can feed the fire. The flames also consume nearby oxygen while releasing poisonous carbon monoxide fumes. Victims are sometimes left gasping for air as they try to extinguish the flames.

People with burns on 50 percent of their bodies will likely stay in the hospital for about three months and undergo 10 to 15 surgeries, the Times added. The initial surgeries remove all burned and deadened tissue. As patients heal, their burns are covered in protective, medicated coverings to prevent life-threatening infections.

Survivors will then have to undergo skin-graft surgeries that leave permanent scarring. Survivors also have to deal with psychological trauma.

In March, police in Oakland, California, discovered a homeless man who was doused with a flammable liquid, then set on fire after an argument with another man, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The victim had burns on 80 percent of his body.

He was taken to St. Francis Memorial Hospital burn center in San Francisco in critical condition. He later died there from his injuries.

In July 2020, two strangers slapped an 89-year-old woman walking in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, then set her clothes on fire, WABC-TV reported. She was able to pull up her hair so it wouldn't ignite. She then extinguished the flames on her back by rubbing against a wall to smother them.

Newsweek contacted SMPD for comment.