Things That Matter

A Hiker Found The Decapitated Body Of a Man In Los Angeles’ Griffith Park

A hiker in Los Angeles was horrified to find a decapitated and dismembered body in Griffith Park, near the intersection of Griffith Park Drive and Camp Road, on Monday morning. Around 9 a.m., the hiker encountered the body of a white or Hispanic man who seemed to be in his forties or fifties, immediately reporting it to local police. A homicide investigation was launched according to protocol, though Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Ryan Rabbet did tell the media that investigators do not believe a crime was committed. As of now, detectives are investigating the possibility that the victim had been living near the park in a homeless encampment.

Although the police don’t believe that foul play was involved, they cannot yet say for sure what the cause of death was.

Credit: visitcalifornia.com

Because the body was found in Griffith Park, authorities have suggested that the body may have been mutilated by wildlife—though, based on the wildlife that inhabit the park—this outcome is somewhat unlikely.

According to LAPARKS.org, Griffith Park is home to a variety of mammalian species, including mule deer, raccoon, coyote, gray fox, opossum, skunk, bobcat, and mountain lion. While raccoons can be aggressive, deaths that result from a raccoon encounter are usually due to the contraction of rabies following a bite. In the case of coyotes, the only known fatal coyote attack on an adult occurred in 2009, when Canadian country folk singer Taylor Mitchell was mauled by several coyotes on Cape Breton Highlands National Park‘s Skyline Trail in Nova Scotia. The only remaining animals that could have decapitated and dismembered the body found on Monday are bobcats or mountain lions—and even that is dubious.

Although bobcats and mountain lions have been known to attack humans, it happens very rarely. Both feline species are largely solitary. They normally hunt at night and hide out during the day, generally avoiding humans unless infected with rabies, which can make them unusually aggressive (in this case, they have been known to occasionally attack unprovoked). Three has never been a fatal mountain lion attack in Los Angeles County, and fewer than thirty in all of North America, according to the Mountain Lion Foundation.

Plus, there is only one known mountain lion currently living in Griffith Park—a male known as P-22, whose past diet and behavior patterns do not suggest he would have attacked a human.

Credit: Steve Winter/National Geographic

While it could still be possible that a wild animal caused this man’s death, officials have speculated that a homeless person may have died of other causes in or near the park, only to be later dismembered by an animal—not only was the body’s head missing, but various body parts were also found scattered throughout the surrounding area. The man is estimated to have died two to three days before the body’s discovery.

“The evidence suggests that the person had passed away and animals may have gotten to it, possibly a homeless individual staying up in the area,” said LAPD Lt. Ryan Rabbet.

 Still, detectives are proceeding with a murder investigation.

Griffith Park is located in city Council District 4, which has seen a 53% increase of homeless populations just this year—the highest jump in all of Los Angeles.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, Council District 4 has seen a 111% increase of Hispanic/Latinx homeless populations between 2018 and 2019—the highest of any ethnic group. As a way of addressing the current boost in homeless numbers, City Councilman David Ryu proposed the construction of a new housing shelter on the southern end of Griffith Park. The shelter, as it’s been proposed, would be able to provide 100 people with shelter, and while the project could cost up to $4.6 billion, officials say that it would be fully funded through the city’s “A Bridge Home” program, which receives funding through California’s state budget surplus. According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s website, Los Angeles alone received $85 million in 2018 and $124 million from the state in 2019 to bring our unhoused neighbors indoors. 

The “A Bridge Home” program was first introduced by Garcetti in April of 2018 as an initiative to implement temporary emergency shelters throughout the city. Each shelter is scheduled to remain for a period of three years. The first shelter was erected in September of last year, and five additional shelters have emerged since then.

When speaking about the forthcoming shelter in Griffith Park, David Ryu said, “In times of crisis, parks have always helped meet our highest challenges and serve our greatest needs. By opening up this lot to Bridge Housing, we will not only meet the crisis of our time, but we will also help build community around this shared purpose of ending homelessness.”   

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