Man fed homeless people food laced with chemical stronger than pepper spray, prosecutors say

An aerial view of the Huntington Beach shoreline near the pier in May.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A 38-year-old man is facing multiple felony charges after authorities allege he poisoned eight homeless people in a series of videotaped attacks last month in Orange County.

Prosecutors allege William Robert Cable, 38, of San Andreas provided the unsheltered individuals in Huntington Beach with food laced with oleoresin capsicum, a chemical that is twice as strong as pepper spray used by police, and then filmed their reactions.

Many were unaware that the food they were given had been tampered with. Some were told they were participating in a “spicy food challenge.” Others were given different food and beer to entice them to eat the poisoned fare, prosecutors said.


After eating the food, the individuals suffered a variety of ailments, including seizure-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, vomiting and intense mouth and stomach pain. Several were hospitalized.

“These human beings were preyed upon because they are vulnerable,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Cable is charged with eight counts of poisoning and a count of inflicting injury on an elder adult — all felonies. He is also charged with eight misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and an infraction for consuming alcohol or smoking marijuana while driving. He has not yet entered a plea, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 19 years and three months in jail. Cable, who was arrested by Huntington Beach police on May 22, is being held at Theo Lacy Facility, the jail in Orange, in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Cable’s booking photo was not immediately provided on Thursday.

Authorities are asking for the public’s help in identifying any additional victims in the case. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Huntington Beach Police Department at (714) 960-8825 or the Orange County district attorney’s office.

“The cruel nature of these crimes shocks the conscience of our community,” Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta said in a prepared statement. “I am proud of the persistence of our HBPD detectives in finding those responsible for these heinous acts. We also appreciate our partnership with the District Attorney’s office in the continued pursuit of this important investigation.”