“And there are idiots who attack them. Now those guys are sicker than any homeless. They just want to kill somebody. So they pick on the homeless. ‘Who wants ’em? I’ll stab him or shoot him or pour gasoline on him and light it.’ That hasn’t happened too many times in this city, but it has happened. Some of that violence was probably over booze or dope, where the homeless got into conflicts among themselves. I remember a guy in Balboa Park a couple of years ago got stabbed over a cigarette.”
But in Johnson’s view, the homeless were not more dangerous than others. He believed that disrespectful behavior sometimes provoked conflict with them. “When asked for money,” he said, “someone will say, ‘Get away from me, tramp.’ Statements like that could set off someone who’s potentially violent, especially if they are bipolar.”
I told a story about an incident that happened years ago while I was on the town with a group of people. A filthy-looking man approached us and asked for spare change. The most professional man in our group reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked to be 15 pennies. He flung them on the ground before the man and walked on laughing.
“Yeah, stuff like that,” said Johnson, “you want to set off a potentially violent homeless guy, sneer at him with something like ‘Get a job, you bum.’ ”
I asked about the City Liquor House and its owners. “Oh, Chris and Adrianna are great people,” he said. “They don’t sell alcohol to anyone who looks too drunk.”
Back at the store, the couple’s nephew Ramiz told me he’s even tougher. “If some guys bought three beers an hour ago and they’re back in the store wanting more, I won’t sell to them.”