SANTA ANA, Calif. – A 38-year-old man has been charged with poisoning eight homeless people, including an elderly person, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, in a series of attacks that were videotaped to record the victims’ reactions to eating food laced with oleoresin capsicum, which is twice as strong as the pepper spray used by police.
The victims, who were all poisoned in the City of Huntington Beach, suffered a variety of symptoms including seizure-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and intense mouth and stomach pain. Several of the victims required hospitalization.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel, Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta, Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, and Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy are asking for the public’s help in identifying additional victims and suspects in connection with the series of poisonings which began in mid-May.
“These human beings were preyed upon because they are vulnerable,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “They were exploited and poisoned as part of a twisted form of entertainment, and their pain was recorded so that it could be relived by their attacker over and over again. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Huntington Beach Police Department are committed to identifying any and all perpetrators responsible and getting justice for all of these individuals who were victimized in these attacks.”
Many of the victims were unaware the food they were being given had been tampered with prior to eating it. Several victims were given other food and beer to entice them to eat the poisoned food.
William Robert Cable, 38, of San Andreas, has been charged with eight felony counts of poisoning, one felony count of inflicting injury on an elderly person, eight misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and an infraction for consuming alcohol or smoking marijuana while driving.
He faces a maximum of 19 years and three months if convicted on all charges. Cable is currently being held at the Orange County Jail on $500,000 bail.
Cable was arrested on May 22, 2020 by the Huntington Beach Police Department.
“The cruel nature of these crimes shocks the conscience of our community,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta. “I am proud of the persistence of our HBPD detectives in finding those responsible for these heinous acts. We also appreciate our partnership with the District Attorney’s office in the continued pursuit of this important investigation.”
“The inhumane nature of the crimes combined with targeting a vulnerable population shocks the conscience,” said Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy. “The fact an adult criminal would involve a juvenile is even more reprehensible. I am proud of the extraordinary effort put into solving this case by our police officers, detectives and also our firefighters who reported suspicious circumstances from observations while treating the victims.”
Some of the victims were told they were participating in a “spicy food challenge” before being given the food laced with oleoresin capsicum; others were not.
“Crime of any kind is intolerable, but this one is particularly disturbing,” said Orange County City Attorney Michael Gates. “I am grateful to the Huntington Beach Police for the investigation and arrest of the suspect, and grateful to the Orange County District Attorney, Todd Spitzer, for his department’s handling of the prosecution.”
“Orange County has worked hard to address the homeless crises. It is unacceptable to see someone target these vulnerable people. These individuals do not deserve to become the target of acts of cruelty simply because they are homeless ,” said Michelle Steel, Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “I am grateful for the quick response of the Huntington Beach Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s office to ensure these criminals are no longer able to prey on the vulnerable members of society.”