The victim was found around 4am, burning in a street next to an apartment complex in the 1300 block of Witte near Long Point. A dark splotch near the exit gate marks the spot where police say the unimaginable happened.
"I thought it was someone drunk, screaming or crying, but it was not normal," neighbor Ena Baez said. "The screaming was not normal."
The man was on fire. Police say three men beat him up, doused him with gasoline and then set him ablaze. Neighbors called police and came running.
They ran to put him out," neighbor Troy Nelson said. "I guess they were throwing water on him."
They rushed over with a fire extinguisher to calm the flames.
"[I said], 'He's burning to death, let's go help him,'" Baez said.
Baez said the smell of gasoline was overpowering, and the man was burning for several minutes from head to toe.
Police said the victim was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital with extensive burns. At last check, he was in critical condition.
"He couldn't say nothing and we couldn't identify him because his body was burned," Baez said. "You couldn't tell if he was Hispanic or white or anything."
Hours after the man was taken to the hospital, you could still see his burned clothes and a plastic gas can lying on the street next to the water bottles neighbors emptied on him. Arson and homicide investigators are examining the evidence.
No motive has been determined. At the apartment complex, where management has posted warnings on all the doors, neighbors worry they could be next.
"I have to walk home, like at night," neighbor Wilson Bivas said. "It is scary because you never know if it could happen to you or if you're going to be in the middle of it."
Authorities are still searching for up to three suspects who remain unidentified and at large, described only as black males.
"It makes me angry that whatever someone did, it had to go that far for them to just set them on fire like that," neighbor Marion Robinson said.
Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call HPD at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
Take ABC13 with you!
Download our free apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices