The life of a homeless man who suffered serious burns when he was doused in lighter fluid and set on fire as he slept on a Ventura beach over the weekend was saved by the quick-thinking actions of a passerby, who extinguished the flames before calling for help.
The unidentified man happened to be near Pierpont Beach at South Seaward Avenue around 11 p.m. Sunday when 58-year-old John Frazier was attacked by three men, according to a news release from the Ventura Police Department. He dialed 911 after putting out the blaze.
Doug Kern walked by moments after the man used sand to put out the fire, which has engulfed Frazier in flames of up to 6-feet high.
"I looked right over the wall, and there he was," he said. "And then I could smell the burning."
Kern overheard Frazier speaking to paramedics.
"You could tell he was out of it, because they asked him, 'Did you set yourself on fire or someone else?' And he said, 'Uh, someone else did,'" Kern said.
On Monday, two days after the incident, black burn marks were still visible on the wall where the man had been attacked as he lay huddled in a sleeping bag.
Frazier was being treated USC Medical Center for second and third degree burns that covered up to 40 percent of his extremities and torso, according to police. He was expected to survive.
A motive has not been given for the attack.
Those who knew Frazier believed he was a veteran who moved from New Mexico about six months ago and had been staying at the beach ever since.
Curtis Schoefield, who said he often sat and spoke with Frazier on the beach, told KTLA the man was always flashing a peace sign.
"He never harmed nobody," he said.
Since the attack occurred late Saturday, residents of the tight-knit beach community have rallied around Frazier, leaving messages and lighting candles on the beach in his honor.
"This is not what Pierpont is about or our neighborhood," said one woman, who had lit a candle for Frazier.
The three assailants remained at large as of early Tuesday. Residents expressed their believe that arrests would be made in the case.
"We just want to get the little crooks who did this," a male resident said, adding, "They'll get him, we've got a good police department here.
Police described the wanted men as being in their late teens or early 20s and having shaved heads, police said in a news release. They were seen wearing dark clothing.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or had information about it is urged to call the Ventura Police Department at 805-339-4309.
A community meeting was also planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday, during which time the incident would be discussed.
A YouCaring site has also been set up with the hope of raising enough money to set Frazier up in an apartment for Frazier for 6 months to help him "get back on his feet and have a fresh start."