FWB Homeless Man Lit on Fire; Investigators Still Looking for Suspect

By: Meagan O'Halloran Email
By: Meagan O'Halloran Email

Fort Walton Beach Police investigators are trying to find out who set a homeless man on fire. The incident happened Saturday afternoon under the Brooks Bridge. Now other homeless people say they're afraid they'll be targeted next.

The crime scene tape still marks the spot under the Brooks Bridge where homeless Veteran Christopher Hayes found his friend over the weekend.

"We found Johnnie Roberts laying on his side with his whole backside of his buttocks burnt, right through, just burnt. Somebody lit him on fire. He wasn't beat up, but blood was just pouring out of his nose" Hayes says.

Authoritis say they found Johnnie Spencer Roberts tied to a pole by his shoelaces. He was unconscious and intoxicated, but, miraculously, he survived. Because he'd been drinking, Roberts doesn't recall much.

Investigators are trying to find out who was with him earlier that day.

Captain Darrell Bruhn is hoping to develop more leads after conducting a full investigation.

"We're hopeful that at least he can give us some information prior to what his recollection was, that may be helpful."

Police are calling this incident an intentional attack, but they're not sure if Roberts was a random target or was attacked by another homeless person; Either way, many in the homeless community are living in fear.

"Every homeless person in this town is scared right now, but at the same time we're looking for who did it too-- because it might be me next. It's hard for me to even sleep at night" says Hayes.

Police say this isn't the first time Roberts has been violently attacked. He was injured back in 2007 at the hand of another homeless man.

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  • by Local Mother Location: FWB (near the Bridge!) on Feb 4, 2011 at 03:28 PM
    HOLY SH#T! My son (who, by the way, walks to a dark bus stop every morning 2 blocks from the bridge) told me about this the other day. I was so shocked and sickened that I was sure it had to be school yard gossip from some misinformed kid. Now that I see this infact did horribly take place, I am mortified!!! WTF is wrong with people! I don't care what he did...ON FIRE!!? REALLY!!!? Gross
  • by Anonymous Location: Panama City Beach on Feb 2, 2011 at 11:00 AM
    Hey Tammy fron Panama City, Since you think he wasnt evan hurt, lets see, how would you feel if someone did that to you or your loved one. Point being, he was violated as a person, PERIOD!! You need to get a clue & a heart.
  • by Volunteer Location: FWB on Feb 1, 2011 at 08:45 PM
    Johnny was severly burned on his buttocks and up his back and is still in the hospital in pain. I know this becasue I serve Johnny along with many of our other homeless on any given night that it is cold (40 degrees or below) Yes, Johnny does have his fair share of issues with one of them being alcohol but he is a very kind soul and always willing to help us at the church when we have the shelter open. Nobody should ever have to go thru the pain that Johnny had to endure. A human life is just that, a human life and no matter what our addictions may be, we all deserve to be safe.
  • by Tammy Location: Panama City on Feb 1, 2011 at 02:55 PM
    Chill out people. The article says he wasn't even hurt. Jeez!
  • by Barbara Location: PCB on Feb 1, 2011 at 06:33 AM
    Human cruelty is a terrible offense. What is really more disturbing is that the government is not providing housing for these people. They are loitering on private and public land and that is against the law. If you want to live in the woods you have to pay to stay in a campsite. We need to find out who they are and why they are living like this. If they are criminals on the run or pedophiles, the law and the public needs to know about it. If they are mentally ill, then they need help and supervision. There is no reason for anyone to be chronically homeless in the society. The law also says, if you don't work and pay your rent, you will be evicted. No one gets a free ride in this world. Sheriff, do your job and check these people out. There is usually a reason they are living that way. Remember Elizabeth Smart and the homeless people who abducted her. Sheriff take care of our communities.
  • by cc Location: fl on Jan 31, 2011 at 08:59 PM
    whats our world coming to why is people getting so much more viloent it a disgrace to treat other human being in this manner probaly some coward got to pick on the homeless and catching drunk they are human being with a soul they just got more problemn than us that has the comfort life my heart goes out to each and everyone of them but i know there a lot of them out there by choice but a lot is not they will find whoever you are you want get away with this type of evil and you should be treated in the same manner only you be completly aware of it
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