Police Use Mannequin to Catch Man Suspected of Killing Homeless Men
In early January, Daniel Aldape, a 46-year-old homeless man, was found dead at an intersection in Las Vegas. About a month later, 60-year-old David Dunn, also homeless, was found dead under his blankets at the same intersection. Both died of blunt trauma to the head.
And so, every evening since Dunn died, in an attempt to catch the perpetrator of these horrific murders, Las Vegas police placed a blanket-clad mannequin at the intersection, hoping the killer would strike again. On February 22, Shane Schindler did just that. As Schindler began bashing the mannequin with a hammer, police arrested him on charges of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Andrew Walsh, a Las Vegas police captain involved in the mannequin sting, told the Guardian why he resorted to such an unorthodox strategy. “We used some tactics you wouldn’t normally see, but we didn’t have a lot of evidence to go by,” he said, adding that “the sidewalk or a soft patch of dirt is no place for a human being to take their last breath” and that the force “took those crimes very personally.”
Walsh said the police are still questioning Schindler, 30, and the investigation is still ongoing. Las Vegas, like other west coast cities, has an inordinate amount of homeless people living in public spaces, rather than in shelters or temporary housing. In fact, over half the Las Vegas homeless population lives on sidewalks, at parks, or in tunnels. Violence against homeless people is hardly new.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there were 77 attacks against homeless people in 2015; 27 of those attacks were fatal. From 1999 to 2015, there were 1,657 reported acts of violence against homeless people, 428 of which were fatal. The perpetrators are usually teenagers and men under 30.
To Daren Richards, Schindler’s public defender, attempting to bludgeon a mannequin with a hammer is not sufficient evidence to warrant an arrest. “Our defense is that carrying a hammer in a bag is not carrying a concealed weapon under the law or all the construction workers and carpenters in this town would be arrested tomorrow,” he said. “If they’re going to charge him with something else, let’s see the charges. But as of right now all that other stuff is irrelevant.”
But Walsh, the police chief, while looking to end this gruesome killing spree, is also looking back, and mourning Aldape and Dunn. “They are the lost faces of our community,” he said.