Punk kids only underscore fears about the safety of Chico’s street people

When I moved to Chico, back in the late 1990s, I knew I wanted to be a reporter. In fact, I came here specifically for Chico State’s journalism program. As a budding scribe, I read the local publications religiously. One of the stories that left a lasting impression was about a Chico man named Lloyd Brown who, on a weeknight in November 1998, was savagely beaten in what District Attorney Mike Ramsey described as a “killing frenzy.”

Brown was homeless. He’d been asleep in an alley in the south campus neighborhood when a couple of drunk Butte College football players disrupted his slumber by urinating near him. Words were exchanged and those students, Trevor McDonald Bird and Dereck Jonathan Phillips, came unhinged. They beat Brown with a water jug, spare tire and fence board. The 47-year-old Brown died the next day at Enloe Medical Center. Bird and Phillips, both 19 when the incident took place, were convicted of first- and second-degree murder, respectively.

The disturbing nature of the case makes it unforgettable. But I think it’s been on my mind a lot lately because of the ramped-up anti-homeless rhetoric I’ve been noticing.

I’ve read a lot of callous and cruel online comments, including from Chico’s mayor, about people who live on the streets.

Moreover, I’ve seen first-hand that people in this marginalized and vulnerable population are sometimes treated like dirt.

Case in point: On Tuesday (July 11), I witnessed a couple of twerps on bicycles throw a half-full plastic cup at a woman I suspect was homeless. The incident took place as I left my office for a late lunch. I was just about to get into my car when I heard an exchange that led me to believe the teens, who had been riding their bikes the wrong way on Camellia Way, had almost run down the lady, a pedestrian who’d crossed the street on her way to Annie’s Glen.

She was telling them they could be ticketed for riding in the opposite direction of the bike lane they’d taken to, and they were giving her lip in response. Then, they turned around and started following her. I closed my car door and started walking in their direction when one of the little shirtless punks—probably 14 years old—chucked his drink at her backside. The woman and I both yelled at them, and the little cowards rode off toward the tunnel.

Instinctively, I hopped into my vehicle and drove over to One-Mile to give them a piece of my mind. They were nowhere in sight by the time I got there.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have wasted my time trying to hunt down a couple of juvenile delinquents. What I should have done was ask the woman if she needed anything.

I realize that the activity of a couple of dumb kids is a far cry from the murder of Lloyd Brown. But what I saw underscores my concerns—that there is not only a lot of disdain for homeless folks but there are also people who are hateful enough to do them harm.