California man charged with attempted murder after fire set near sleeping homeless man

The homeless man awoke to the smell of smoke and tried dousing the flames with bottled water, police said.

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By Phil Helsel

A Southern California man accused of setting fire to the cardboard a homeless man was sleeping under has been charged with attempted murder.

Richard Smallets, 32, was arrested on Sept. 12, the same day that the fire was set on cardboard under which the victim was sleeping, police said in a statement.Glendale Police Department

Richard Smallets, 32, was arrested Sept. 12, the same day a fire was set near a man sleeping on a sidewalk in Glendale, police said Tuesday in a statement.

The homeless man awoke to find the cardboard boxes he was sleeping under were on fire, police said.

The man, who has not been identified, tried to put out the flames with bottled water before the fire department came and extinguished the blaze.

Police were called to the scene around 1:22 a.m. that morning. Officials did not say if the homeless man suffered any injuries.

Richard Smallets, 32, was arrested on Sept. 12, the same day that the fire was set on cardboard under which the victim was sleeping, police said in a statement.Glendale Police Department

Police said Smallets was identified by surveillance video from a nearby business that allegedly showed him intentionally setting the fire and taking photos. A suspected motive in the attack was not detailed in the police statement.

Smallets was arrested on an arson charge, and on Sept. 13, he was charged with attempted murder by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, police said. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

It was not immediately clear late Wednesday whether Smallets had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Glendale is a city north of downtown Los Angeles. A homeless count the city conducted in January found 243 homeless in the city of about 191,000 residents, which was down by 17 people from the 2018 count, according to a government report.

Like in the Los Angeles County area and other parts of the country, reasons cited for the homeless situation were high rents and income that does not match rent increases, according to the report. Other factors cited were job loss or unexpected illness.

The Greater Los Angeles homeless count released earlier this year tallied nearly 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, a 12 percent increase from last year’s count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has said. What was called a housing affordability crisis was blamed as one factor driving people into homelessness.