Shocking "bum hunts" on the rise?

12:50 PM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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(CBSNews.com) - In 2006, 60 Minutes reported on a perverse national trend referred to as "bum hunting," in which packs of teenagers stalk, attack, even shoot homeless people. Seven years later, that trend is still on the rise.

In the original story, correspondent Ed Bradley and producer Graham Messick reported that since 1999, there had been 500 attacks against homeless people, resulting in 180 deaths.

That number has since doubled. In 2010, the National Coalition for the Homeless reported there had been over a thousand acts of violence and more than 300 deaths.

The perpetrators are young and the attacks are gruesome. CBS reported last week in New Jersey that three teens ages 13-14 followed a homeless man and then punched him in the head in what detectives believe was a game of "knockout." Authorities found the man dead after his head was wedged between two iron fence posts.

Another incident occurred in Texas in April 2012, during which a homeless man was attacked and shot to death by four teens ages 16-18. After shooting the man, the teens robbed him for all he had: a single torn dollar.

Messick said he couldn't believe that the trend he reported on seven years ago is still so prevalent.

"It's pretty obvious to me that there are two problems," he said. "One, we're abandoning people in need to the streets and two, many adolescents in our culture still don't know right from wrong or understand how to resist peer pressure."

One of the adolescents Messick is referring to is Jeffrey Spurgeon who was interviewed in the 2006 segment. Spurgeon and his three friends, ages 14-18, attacked homeless man Michael Roberts three separate times -- the third time they beat him to death after lodging a nail through a stick. When Bradley asked him why he did it, Spurgeon said it was fun.

"I don't know, just exciting, I guess, entertainment," Spurgeon said. He was later sentenced to 35 years in prison.

As Bradley and Messick reported, police investigations linked some of these attacks to a DVD series called "Bumfights," a show in which homeless people perform degrading stunts in exchange for a few dollars and a lot of alcohol. Even Sturgeon admitted to watching the show hundreds of times and told Bradley he was trying to imitate it.

Brian Levin, a criminologist at California State University in San Bernardino shed some light on the possible motive behind such a crime.

"Most hate offenses are not committed by hardcore hate mongers," Levin told Bradley. "They're often associations of young males who, looking for some thrill or excitement, go out and attack a target that they think will help validate them, and a target that they think is vulnerable."

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