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Indybay Feature
Fresno Police Department Officers Assaulted Homeless Man
by Mike Rhodes
Monday Mar 16th, 2020 2:55 PM
The beating of this homeless man by the Fresno Police Department will be challenged. We will not tolerate this violation of our communities homeless population.
Dez Martinez, with the advocacy group Homeless in Fresno, called me and said the Fresno Police Department Homeless Task Force and other city workers were preparing to destroy a homeless encampment near West Avenue and Freeway 180.

When Martinez arrived on the scene an ambulance was heading out, taking a badly beaten homeless man to the hospital. Here is how she described the scene. “As soon as I pulled up to the cul de sac I saw an Ambulance on site and turned my on camera immediately. Nervous and scared of what just happened, I remained calm & began to approach the camp. As soon as I reached the camp several street family members came up to me in a panic and outrage about what just happened.”

Martinez, who has been homeless herself, says one of the camp residents told her ”they beat up Dreamer, they took him down & just kept beating him. They kicked his legs out, they kicked him in the face, they all were punching him.” This was done after he complained to the police about the camps demolition and suggested homeless people should not be treated that way.

The man, whose name is Lewis Brown (known on the streets as Dreamer), was taken to Community Hospital where he was treated, turned over to police custody, booked at the County Jail and released. The nurse that was cleaning his wounds said "I'm tired of seeing the police do this.”

He had to walk several miles back to the encampment and found that about 90% of his property was missing. All that remained were some clothing and a couple pots & pans.

Local attorney Kevin Little said “what happened to Lewis Brown should outrage anyone who is concerned about justice in our City.  As numerous witnesses can confirm, Mr. Brown was attacked by law enforcement only because he objected to their unreasonable orders.  Because he objected, Lewis, a 60 year-old, frail homeless man was brutalized by multiple officers and falsely charged with ‘obstructing justice.’  Justice, indeed.”

Brown was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing an officer and trespassing. He was also informed he could get a charge for inciting a riot because he had someone call Martinez to come to the camp.

Little says “It is currently unknown if the charges against Mr. Brown will result in a case against him -- no date is yet set.  We are hopeful that the District Attorney will reconsider and decline to pursue these charges, but if it does, I stand ready to fight to vindicate Mr. Brown, not only for his benefit but for all of his street family who experience harassment from law enforcement every day in our community.”

I asked Martinez if anything like this had happened before. She said “ it's not unusual for the Fresno Police Department Homeless Task Force that consists of 5 officers to break up encampments. They do this daily. It's not unusual to see or hear about this type of abuse on the homeless. It’s normal to hear now and that should not be normal.”

Martinez continues, “back when I started 5 years ago, I would go to encampments & see someone hurt or bruises and ask what happened and they would tell me ‘the police.’ At first I was like, Naw, it can't be like that because there would be an uproar in Fresno, for the FPD to abuse in public and witnesses around, something would have been done, but when you witness it in person or via recording, you are in disbelief, you feel like your'e in another country but your’e not, its here in your own back yard, what you call your community.”

Martinez and her friend Brandi Nuse-Villegas have been filming incidents like this for several years. They have started live streaming some of these incidents on the Community Alliance Facebook page. Martinez and Little are both very interested to see what the body cam footage of the attack on Brown will show.

Relying on her experience and instincts to document these violations of homeless peoples rights Martinez adds “then you post on social media hoping they will stop or maybe someone higher up will put a stop to it but they see it & it doesn't stop, even with video, it's like your’e ‘Just Invisible‘ you get use to it. Now when I am at camps and the street families tell me about what happened yesterday when HTF was there, the only response I have anymore is, damn again? What hospital so I can go visit or when is he/she getting out”.


Mike Rhodes is a member of the Community Alliance newspaper editorial board and the author of a book about the homeless in Fresno - Dispatches from the War Zone. You can contact him by email at mikerhodes [at] .
§Lewis Brown (known on the streets as Dreamer)
by Mike Rhodes
Monday Mar 16th, 2020 2:55 PM
This is what several Fresno Police Department Homeless Task Force members did to this homeless man. Photos by Dez Martinez
§This camp was destroyed after police beat Dreamer
by Mike Rhodes
Monday Mar 16th, 2020 2:55 PM
This is the camp shortly before the Fresno Police Department’s Homeless Task Force came to destroy it, beat Dreamer, charge him with a crime and take their possessions (tents, sleeping bags, food etc). Photo by Dez Martinez
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