A fight over panhandling turf in Wichita’s Delano neighborhood landed a 46-year-old homeless man in jail on Thursday afternoon.
Lt. Lin Dehning, spokesman for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, said the homeless man got upset when he saw a couple soliciting cash from motorists near Seneca and Maple at about 2:30 p.m. and started yelling for them to “get out of his area.” The couple, a 47-year-old man and his 35-year-old girlfriend who live nearby, argued that they “had every right to be there,” Dehning said.
In the ensuing melee, the homeless man hit the woman on the back of the head with a closed fist and then turned his attention to her boyfriend — swiping at him with a stick — when he tried to halt the attack. The boyfriend received a scratch on the top of one hand when he attempted to knock away the stick, Dehning said.
A sheriff’s lieutenant drove upon the fight as it was happening. When he approached, the homeless man was squatting down on a concrete median and rubbing the end of the stick on the ground to sharpen it, Dehning said.
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The lieutenant arrested the homeless man on suspicion of aggravated battery, aggravated assault, misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct, booking records show. He was later taken to the Sedgwick County Jail.
Dehning wasn’t sure whether the homeless man or the couple was panhandling on the street corner first. Neither the boyfriend nor his girlfriend needed medical attention for their injuries, he said.
The arrest came on the same day the Wichita Police Department asked members of the public to hand out business cards instead of cash to panhandlers. The cards give the phone number for the agency’s three-officer Homeless Outreach Team and urge those who need help to call.