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Florida Man Accused of Attempting to Murder Homeless Person in Santa Barbara

Francisco Antonio Diego Click to view larger
Francisco Antonio Diego

A Florida man was arrested Tuesday night on attempted-murder charges after allegedly attacking a homeless Santa Barbara resident with a knife in what police are calling a hate crime.

Francisco Antonio Diego, 40, had met the victim earlier in the day near the Santa Barbara Public Library after arriving in the city, said Sgt. Riley Harwood of the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Diego apparently believed the victim had stolen his cigarettes and became enraged, Harwood said.

“While shouting racial epithets, Diego was repeatedly attempting to stab and slash the victim with a knife while the victim was shielding himself with a backpack,” Hardwood said.

Diego is Hispanic and the victim is African-American, Harwood said.

The investigation into the attack points to the assault being racially motivated, Harwood said.

Off-duty police Sgt. Todd Johnson, who was wearing civilian cloths and riding his bicycle home from work, witnessed the attack, which took place at about 8 p.m. on the sidewalk on the first block of East Anapamu Street, Harwood said.

"It was apparent to Sgt. Johnson that the victim was about to be killed or seriously injured, and that the safety of numerous bystanders at a nearby bus stop could also be in jeopardy," Harwood said.

"Sgt. Johnson stopped and, with gun drawn, intervened in the altercation, halting the attack on the victim,. He detained Diego at gunpoint and instructed bystanders to call the police.”

Johnson likely saved the 34-year-old victim’s life, Harwood said.

Diego was subsequently booked into Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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