Help the National Coalition for the Homeless end violence against homeless people.
(CBS) He is now a repentant inmate serving 35 years, but 19-year-old Jeffrey Spurgeon looks back on the night he and friends beat a homeless man to death in Holly Hill, Fla., and says they did it "for fun" as they emulated scenes from "bum-rushing videos" like "Bumfights," a commercial video of homeless men performing degrading acts.
Spurgeon speaks to Ed Bradley about the disturbing trend of violence against the homeless this Sunday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Spurgeon says he is haunted by the voice of the victim, Michael Roberts. "The main thing...I keep thinking about 24/7 is Michael...screaming for help," he tells Bradley.
He and three other teens, including Chris Scamahorn, ran across Roberts in the woods where they were smoking pot. "Chris woke the guy up and started hitting him with a stick. So we all rushed in on him and then I hit him with the stick," Spurgeon recalls. "And the third time when we come back, that's when Chris had brought a two-by-four with a nail through it and hit the guy on top of the head with it," he tells Bradley. "Why did you do all this?" asks Bradley. "I guess for fun," responds Spurgeon.
"We were just...trying to mock a show," he says. One of the "shows" Spurgeon refers to is "Bumfights," a series of videos in which homeless men, given a few dollars or some alcohol, fight each other or are subjected to degrading acts. The videos have sold 300,000 copies. "That was [his friends'] favorite thing to do, was watch those videos and mock whatever was on it," says Spurgeon. "How is that fun?" asks Bradley. Says Spurgeon, "I don't know, just exciting, I guess."
A deeply remorseful Spurgeon has a message for teens who would find fun in assaulting the homeless. "Look at me now, though. You still have a chance. Look at me," he says.
The National Coalition for the Homeless says 182 homeless people have been killed and more than 500 attacked since 1999, victims of random violence that includes beatings, stabbings, shootings and even victims being set on fire. Brian Levin, a criminologist at California State University and an expert on hate crimes says, "Most hate offenses are not committed by hard-core hate mongers. They're often associations of young males...looking for some thrill...and a target they think is vulnerable," says Levin. He believes the trend is being fueled by the "Bumfights" videos. "Most recently there have been a series of films, horrible, horrible, brutal films that dehumanize and degrade the homeless," he tells Bradley. "It is really hard to overstate the kind of terrible influence this has on young people," says Levin.
Some of the attackers have even videotaped themselves assaulting homeless people; some actually say the words "Bumfights" on their tapes.
Ryan McPherson, who created "Bumfights" and who, with two partners, sold its rights for $1.5 million, sees the connection from his work to the criminal acts, but he fails to acknowledge any responsibility. He blames the drugs the perpetrators often are on when they commit their crimes. "I'm not hopped up on drugs. I'm a kid with a video camera, just shooting stuff," he tells Bradley.
Bumfights has been sold to teenagers at stores such as Tower Records and Borders.
Tune in to 60 Minutes this Sunday for more.