Killing a peacemaker

Sacramento homeless man dies protecting a fellow camper

Mario Perez-Arzola spent his final moments trying to make peace. The homeless man died saving a life.

It was Oct. 18, 2018. Perez-Arzola watched Chu Hue Xiong approach his south Sacramento homeless camp and point a gun at one of his fellow campers. Xiong was looking for someone, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office says. For a time, Perez-Arzola managed to calm him down.

But then Xiong “inexplicably” shot Perez-Arzola in the chest and winged the other camper in the shoulder, the DA’s office stated in a release. Perez-Arzola died. The person he stood up for survived.

Violence is the leading cause of death for Sacramento County’s homeless population, according to the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, which has been cataloging homeless deaths since 2002. Guns have been responsible for 8% of the 1,032 homeless deaths over the past 17 years, a coalition analysis of coroner data shows.

Of the record 132 homeless deaths recorded in 2018, Perez-Arzola was among the 7% of people who was killed in a homicide.

The coalition’s policy recommendations include having each City Council district create a safe parking program with toilets, showers and case management, and for the county coroner to convene a review committee to analyze homeless deaths, similar to ones that exist for children and victims of domestic violence.

The city and Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency are planning to open a parking lot where 20 families can sleep in their vehicles this month, but there has been no word on the coalition’s other recommendations.

A Sacramento County jury convicted Xiong of murder and attempted murder in November. The jury also found that Xiong used a firearm in the commission of the violent crimes and that he had previously been convicted of first-degree burglary, a strike offense. On Dec. 9, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman sentenced Xiong to 118 years-to-life in prison. The 32-year-old is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, where his earliest parole data is 2072.