Story Highlights• Children and 17-year-old face felony aggravated battery charges
• Police believe teen was a ringleader in the alleged attack
• 10-year-old beat homeless man with piece of concrete, cops say
• Attack highlights increasing trend of U.S. young people attacking transients
By Ashley Fantz
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(CNN) -- Egged on by a 17-year-old, two 10-year-old boys joined in the attack of a Florida homeless man, leaving him bruised and bloody, police said.
The incident highlights an upswing in violent crime across the U.S. against the homeless.
In 2006, there were 142 attacks and 20 murders, several involving teenagers seeking a vicious thrill, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless.
Tuesday's incident, which took place in Daytona Beach, Florida, may make history, said the nonprofit's acting executive director Michael Stoops.
"If we're talking about 10-year-olds, that means we've hit an all-time low," said Stoops. "The youngest person to have ever been arrested for a crime like this is 13." (Read CNN's exclusive story about homeless 'sport killings')
Daytona Police Sgt. Billy Walden said the teen and two boys were walking in their neighborhood around 9 p.m. when they saw 58-year-old John D'Amico. They began throwing rocks at the homeless man.
The 17-year-old, Jeremy Woods, punched D'Amico who then fell over a concrete wall. As he lay on the ground, one of the 10-year-olds -- whose names are not being released -- used parts of the concrete to bash D'Amico in the head, a police report shows. (D'Amico describes his attack)
D'Amico's eye was severely damaged in the attack. Woods and the two boys were charged with felony aggravated battery and are being held without bond at a juvenile detention center in Daytona Beach, Walden said. (Watch cuffed 10-year-olds in court )
The Volusia County State Attorneys Office received paperwork on the case late Thursday and will make a decision about whether or not to pursue charges, said spokeswoman Linda Pruitt.
The three boys made their first court appearance Wednesday wearing ankle shackles and handcuffs, and white jail jumpsuits too big for the two tiny 10-year-old frames. Judge Peter Marshall assigned them public defenders.
Attacks in Florida
Violence against the homeless occurred in cities and suburbs throughout the U.S. last year but Florida led the pack with at least six such crimes in 2006. (See a map of 2006 attacks)
One of those cases has garnered international attention and is expected to go to trial this fall after a surveillance camera captured two teens beating a homeless man with bats in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 12, 2006.
Prosecutors say 17-year-old skateboarder Tom Daugherty, 18-year-old Brian Hooks, a popular hockey team captain, and a third unseen teen, Billy Ammons, a high school dropout, assaulted two more homeless men that night.
One of them was 45-year-old Norris Gaynor. A witness, Anthony Clarke, told police and CNN last year that he saw the three teens approach Gaynor as he slept on a park bench. Daugherty began whacking Gaynor with a bat, Clarke said.
The Daytona Beach area was the scene of another high-profile attack in which four teenagers confessed to beating 53-year-old Michael Roberts to death in the suburb of Holly Hill in May 2005.
The teens -- one as young as 14 -- pummeled Roberts with sticks and logs, fracturing the homeless man's skull and breaking his ribs.
All four pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and are serving separate sentences ranging from 35 years in prison to 22 years and were sentenced to probation for life.
Florida lawmakers met Tuesday with advocates to work on a bill that would provide more protection for the homeless and provide local communities with assistance funding for homeless prevention.
The Daytona Beach 10-year-olds in white jumpsuits walk into court Wednesday. They are facing aggravated battery charges for allegedly attacking a homeless man.
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