Couple arrested after allegedly setting homeless man on fire: ‘It was just a prank’

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A New Mexico couple has been arrested after allegedly setting a homeless man on fire with fireworks earlier this month.

On July 11, authorities said a homeless man was sleeping along the side of a road when he caught fire from fireworks, which were thrown from an SUV.

Now, police have arrested Joshua Benavidez and Irene Enriquez, both 31, for aggravated battery with great bodily harm, tampering with evidence, child abuse and conspiracy.

The pair told KOB that they were trying to startle the man, and did not know that he had been burned until their arrest.

“It was just a prank. It was just trying to scare him. That was it,” Benavidez said. But the arrest warrant tells a different story.

The documents allege they saw the man’s pants were smoldering as they began to drive away. They told investigators that Enriquez tried to put water on the man, who was on fire and unconscious. The arrest warrant alleges Benavidez would not let her and fled the scene.

After surveillance video was released of the crime, authorities received multiple tips about Benavidez’s purple SUV. Police allege he painted his SUV white after the alleged crime.

At the time, Benavidez denied having any involvement in the crime.

They were charged with child abuse because investigators learned their children were with them during the alleged attack. One boy told investigators that his parents threw the firework onto the sleeping homeless man.

The victim is still in the intensive care unit at a New Mexico hospital.