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Assault victim wants attacks on homeless classified as hate crimes

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John Hensley says he had just left the drop-in center and was walking to work as a day laborer when he says he was attacked without warning.  (FOX19/Gordon Graham) John Hensley says he had just left the drop-in center and was walking to work as a day laborer when he says he was attacked without warning. (FOX19/Gordon Graham)
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

A homeless man...was beaten by three complete strangers last Sunday just a few feet away from Washington Park.

It happened in the middle of the intersection of elm and 12th streets in Over-the-Rhine.

 FOX19's Gordon Graham tells us the victim and homeless advocates are calling for assaults against the homeless to be considered hate crimes.

John Hensley says he had just left the drop-in center and was walking to work as a day laborer when he says he was attacked without warning.

"A guy came from behind me, punched me," he said

Hensley says he was attacked by 21-year-old Brandon Zeigler and 19-year-old Alexander Gains along with another 17-year-old. 

"From that point I was Jello from that point, but I felt him put his hands on my head and push me down and then knee me."

Hensley says he endured a beating that nearly claimed his life that night.

"Luckily a staff member at the drop-in center heard the commotion and called the police and he is a retired Springfield Township police officer so if it wasn't for the drop-in center the staff there...they saved my life because these guys were going to kill me," he said.

Josh Spring, executive director of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says Hensley's ordeal is part of an alarming trend.

"In the past 15 years the number of homeless hate crimes resulting in death far outweighs the number of hate crimes against people for religion, race, sexual orientation and ethnicity that resulted in death," he said.

Hensley and the Homeless Coalition are pushing to have assaults against the homeless classified as hate crimes, but FOX19's Legal Analyst, Mike Allen, says that may be easier said than done.

"If homelessness is one of the classes that is protected in a hate crime you're going to have to define homeless," said Allen. "The legislature is going to have to craft a definition for that. I think that's going to be difficult."

John Hensley says he became homeless last November when a fire destroyed the store where he worked and the apartment above where he lived....he's now working on getting his own place. 

Right now Ohio's hate crime statute only covers race, national origin, ethnicity and religion.

Zeigler and Gains are due in court Thursday August 7.

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