ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The beating deaths of two homeless men at the hands of three teens has gotten the attention of local lawmakers. One state senator wants to make targeting the homeless a hate crime, something that would land offenders in prison for longer.
Early Saturday morning APD says 15-year-old Gilbert Tafoya, 16-year-old Nathaniel Carrillo, and 18-year-old Alex Rios attacked three homeless men in an empty field near 60th and Central. Two of the victims died.
One of the teens told police they’d been targeting and attacking homeless people throughout the city for the last year. Still, the District Attorney said this wasn’t a hate crime, according to how the law is written.
“These individuals are targeted the way folks of different sexual orientation are,” Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, said.
O’Neill plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session to change that and add the homeless as a protected group under existing hate crimes law. Those found guilty of such a crime would face an extended penalty of up to two years.
Some states already include the homeless as a protected class under hate crime legislation.
O’Neill tried to do this same thing in 2013, but was unsuccessful. The bill passed the Senate, but time ran out in the session before it made it to the House.
“The fact these individuals are homeless, it fits the category of vulnerable individuals in our society that are targeted because of their vulnerability,” O’Neill said.
Some lawmakers say changing the hate crimes law won’t really change anything.
Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, was one of five senators who voted against the bill in 2013.
“Saying it was a hate crime wouldn’t have stopped these kids from doing that that night,” Moores said. “We need to look at why they were out there, why they weren’t in school to start with, and why else the system failed to protect them and these poor victims.”
O’Neill said he was already planning on re-introducing the bill in the upcoming legislative session. He said he was moved to add homeless individuals to the hate crimes law because of what he’s witnessed while volunteering with homeless shelters downtown.