Things took a turn for the fiery early this morning after a Mission District homeless man encountered two individuals doing drugs behind his tent. According to Mission Local, a brief exchange between the three men regarding the propriety of doing drugs in that exact location preceded a blaze that destroyed the shelter and belongings of the tent dweller. The victim, however, believes the fire was about more than just that dispute and in fact was retaliation for his attempted prevention of a car break-in days before.
Amos Howard was reportedly returning from collecting cans and bottles to recycle when he found the two men by his tent near Saint Charles Borromeo Parish at 713 South Van Ness Avenue. “They were covered up - I couldn’t see them," he told Mission Local. "I asked what they were doing and they said ‘Just chilling.’ ”
He later told SFPD that he instructed the men to cease their drug use (at least in that specific spot). He did not remain inside the tent for long, however, as he smelled something burning and quickly exited his shelter. “The lord spoke to me and told me to get out, so I did.”
His tent quickly went up in flames.
The fire was reported at 12:41 a.m., and SFFD was able to put it out. Howard, meanwhile, thinks this was no accident and that he was intentionally targeted. He shared a story with Mission Local about how he told a man to stop breaking into cars on New Year's Day — just across the street from his tent — and that he believes the fire was retaliation.
“I told him ‘You’re not doing this. Leave the car alone, it’s not yours, get away from it,’ ” Howard explained to Mission Local. “He said, ‘I’m gonna get you.' ”
No one was reported injured, and no arrests were made. “I lost everything,” explained Howard.
This post has been updated to note that it was the tent owner and resident of the tent, not an unnamed building resident, who asked the two men to stop doing drugs behind his tent. In contrast to what the Chronicle originally reported, no apartment dweller appears to have confronted the men about drug use immediately prior to the fire. SFist regrets repeating the Chronicle's errors.
Related: City Drug-Injection Sites Endorsed By Department Of Public Health Director