Man Slashed to Death in Homeless Encampment NR09378pv

August 4, 2009

Los Angeles.  Los Angeles police officers arrested Timothy Bishop, a 50-year-old transient on suspicion of killing Robert Burrus, 67, at a homeless encampment near downtown, early Saturday morning, August 1, 2009.

“Mr. Burrus’s murder is a tragic example of how vulnerable the homeless are when they sleep on the street,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, head of detectives for the Central Police Station.  “This is why we work so closely with the shelters and social workers to encourage people into the shelters at night, and why it is illegal to sleep overnight on the streets.”

Another transient discovered Burrus’s body at a homeless encampment near 6th Street and the 110 Freeway around daybreak.  The transient had spent the night with Bishop, about a block away at another encampment.  Bishop had been wearing a bloody leather jacket and carrying money with blood on it.  When the witness discovered the body in the morning, he recalled having seen Bishop the night before on top of the dead man and realized what had happened.

“I’m not surprised the witness came forward so quickly,” Lt. Vernon said.  “We’ve seen it time and again, that in spite of their condition, many of the homeless downtown still have a sense of pride among them that they are willing to come forward and report crimes.  We solve more murders downtown because of it.”

Police officers, with the help of local security officers for the Downtown Business Improvement District located Bishop and arrested him Saturday morning.  While Bishop had ditched the bloody jacket, detectives were able to find it, as well as bloody money still in Bishop’s pockets.

Detectives believe Bishop killed Burrus by slashing Bishop’s throat with a broken bottle.  They also found Bishop had gouged Burrus’s eyes out in a belief it would keep the victim from identifying his assailant.  Burrus’s bail for the murder charge was set at $1 million.

Burrus’s murder was the fourth murder downtown this year, and the first murder this year involving a homeless person killed on the street.

Anyone with information is asked to call Central Area Detectives at 213-842-0727 during normal business hours.  After hours and on weekends, phone the 24-hour toll-free Detective Information Desk at 1-877-ASK-LAPD (529-3855).  Persons can also send anonymous tips by texting CRIMES (274637) and typing LAPD to start the message.

A photo of Mr. Burrus is available for release.