Two residents of the North Lawrence camp for people experiencing homelessness were charged with crimes after a fight Saturday, but other residents and an advocate say the alleged victim was not supposed to be at the support site.
Area media outlets have reported that a pair of residents were arrested after “alleged attacks on a food donor” or a “good Samaritan.” But according to camp residents, the man was not delivering food, and he had been trespassed from the site.
“It wasn’t a donation,” Vance Swallow, a camp leader, said. “It was a person that was not supposed to be (here).”
Jenn Wolsey, former homeless programs coordinator, was still working for the city when the man was trespassed, she said.
“Within days of opening the support site this guy started showing up out there,” Wolsey said. “Every time I found him at the support site in the beginning, he always stated he was bringing donations and food. … He never had any donations or food with him.”
Wolsey said she believed the man was preying on camp residents, and she and another member of the Housing Initiatives Division reported him to the police and had him trespassed. The man kept showing up, and never with any donations, she said.
“In the beginning when we would find him, he was always in one of the female’s tents,” Wolsey said. “Other times he would stop by, pick up folks, be gone for about an hour and he would drop them back off presenting with symptoms of being high and not in a healthy functioning frame of mind.”
Wolsey would call the police, but the man — Jerod E. Buffalohead, 51 — would take off before police arrived, she said.
In an interview on Monday, Buffalohead said he’d brought burritos for camp residents Saturday afternoon. Camp residents said they did not see Buffalohead attempt to distribute food.
Camp residents and Buffalohead both said Buffalohead invited a female camp resident into his vehicle.
Buffalohead said camp resident Kathleen Daney, 39, was eating a burrito in his vehicle in the passenger seat when another camp resident, Vantino Peaches, 35 — Daney’s boyfriend — yanked the driver’s door open and assaulted him.
Swallow said he saw Peaches go after Buffalohead.
“He was just blind angry,” Swallow said. “He loves her a lot, and he decided to go after him.”
Peaches opened the door and the two “started going at it,” Swallow said.
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Jennifer Adams, known as the “camp mom,” said Peaches swung at Buffalohead as an animal control officer, who had been delivering leashes and collars to the camp, was leaving.
“As the animal control guy’s backing out he sees Tino swing on (Buffalohead) and that’s when he stopped and got out of his vehicle, and he took Tino over and detained him until the cops got here,” Adams said.
The animal control officer separated Peaches and Buffalohead and called the police for backup, according to a media response from Sgt. Drew Fennelly of the Lawrence Police Department.
Adams also said Buffalohead has a history of coming to the support camp under the guise of bringing donations.
“He was not delivering food that I know of,” she said.
Saturday’s incident came just days after city staff members told Adams that the city would take over management of the campsite. She said she did not stick around to see what unfolded after, and that the camp was no longer her responsibility.
Peaches was charged Monday in Douglas County District Court with a misdemeanor count of battery.
“While placing (Peaches) in a patrol car, another camp resident attempted to intervene and battered a patrol sergeant,” Fennelly wrote in the response.
Daney was charged with misdemeanor battery on a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor interference with law enforcement.
The only people listed as witnesses on their charging documents are Buffalohead and police officers.
“I do not condone them getting physical with anyone,” Wolsey said. “But I think it’s important that people understand that this was not a good Samaritan out giving food. This is a dangerous person who was out doing dangerous stuff. If you are a person who goes out and completes dangerous activities, then this stuff will likely happen, where we have no history of any of these individuals acting out violently or inappropriately toward anyone who was out trying to help and give donations.”
On Monday, we observed police tell Buffalohead that camp residents didn’t want him at the camp. He told police he didn’t enter the support site, but parked in front with food for people who wanted to come out. Police told him he wasn’t wanted there, and he said he would go to the other camps around town and donate food there instead.
Peaches and Daney bonded out of the Douglas County jail Monday on own-recognizance (signature) bonds of $500 and $2,000, respectively. All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.
The city is asking those who wish to donate food, water or supplies to the camp residents to leave items in a marked donation tent, according to a Facebook post from Saturday.
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Chansi Long (she/her), Lawrence life reporter, can be reached at clong (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.