A US man has been charged with poisoning eight homeless people with an incredibly spicy resin derived from chili peppers so he could video their reactions.
William Robert Cable, 38, allegedly preyed on homeless people in the city of Huntington Beach, California, feeding them food laced with oleoresin capsicum, which officials described as twice as strong as pepper spray used by police.
“They were exploited and poisoned as part of a twisted form of entertainment, and their pain was recorded so that it could be relived by their attacker over and over again,” Orange County district attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement.
Some victims were told they were participating in a “spicy food challenge” but others were not, authorities said. Some were given other food and beer to get them to eat the poisoned food.
The victims had seizure-like symptoms, difficulty breathing and suffered vomiting and intense mouth and stomach pain. Some had to be treated in hospital.
Officials asked for public help in identifying other victims and potential additional suspects.
Cable, identified as a handyman from the northern California community of San Andreas, was arrested on May 22 by Huntington Beach police.
He was charged with eight felony counts of poisoning, one felony count of inflicting injury on an elderly person, eight misdemeanour counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and an infraction for consuming alcohol or smoking marijuana while driving.
The statement from the district attorney and other law enforcement officials did not specify how the under-age person was involved.
“The inhumane nature of the crimes combined with targeting a vulnerable population shocks the conscience,” said Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy. “The fact an adult criminal would involve a juvenile is even more reprehensible.”
If convicted of all charges, Cable faces up to 19 years and three months in prison.
Online jail records show he remained in custody on 500,000-dollar bail with a court date scheduled next month.