An 82-year-old man who was being treated for COVID-19 at a hospital north of Los Angeles was bludgeoned to death with an oxygen tank last week by his roommate, authorities said.
The men were sharing a two-person room at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California, when the assault happened Dec. 17, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
The Sheriff’s Department said the attack had occurred when the victim began to pray, angering the roommate, who was identified as Jesse Martinez, 37. Martinez struck the older man with an oxygen tank at about 9:45 a.m., the Sheriff’s Department said.
The victim, who has not yet been publicly identified, was pronounced dead the following morning. A spokesperson for the hospital said Thursday that she could not comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.
Martinez was arrested and charged with murder, with a hate crime enhancement, and elder abuse. Bail was set at $1 million, and Martinez is scheduled to appear in Antelope Valley Court on Monday, the Sheriff’s Department said. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.
It was not the first time a person had been killed in a hospital during the pandemic, as medical facilities across the country are understaffed and overcrowded, fueling fear and anxiety tied to the coronavirus.
In April, an 86-year-old woman died at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in New York after another patient shoved her for breaking social distancing guidelines. The older woman had become disoriented and had grabbed the other patient’s intravenous stand to balance herself.
R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, told The Los Angeles Times in a statement that he was shocked by the death of the man who was struck with the oxygen tank.
“These families were already experiencing a hardship, and now this,” he said. “It’s senseless.”
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