A man was found dead inside of his tent in the homeless encampment at Beard Brook Park on Saturday morning, in what appears to be the first death in the makeshift camp since it was set up in September.
A 911 call was received at 10:54 a.m. Saturday for a male camper who was found unresponsive inside of his tent. Emergency medical personnel arrived and declared the man deceased, according to Modesto Police Lt. T.J. Moffett.
The Modesto Police were then called to conduct an investigation. Moffett said initial findings point to natural causes.
“It appears the subject had a multitude of health issues,” Moffett said. “We don’t have anything at this point to believe that anything suspicious has occurred.”
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The man’s age was unknown and his identity is not being released pending notification of his next of kin.
Hundreds of homeless have flocked to Beard Brook since the city opened the park for camping following a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that municipalities could not prosecute people for sleeping outdoors if there are not enough shelter beds.
The numbers in the encampment swelled to between 400 to 500 this winter. Still there have been relatively few incidents at the park. In mid-December, an altercation led to a man being stabbed multiple times. His wounds were non-life threatening.
On social media earlier this month, people had posted about the death of another apparent resident of the park. But his death could not be confirmed with local authorities on Saturday.
The City of Modesto is in the process of preparing a new temporary site under the Ninth Street Bridge for the Beard Brook campers. The homeless residents will be moved to the new location in late January, early February.