Sometimes, he would dress up as Spider-Man as he twirled signs promoting local businesses or the word of God. Sometimes, he wore street clothes, waving to motorists and pedestrians he encountered at the busy intersection of Arden Way and Morse Avenue in Sacramento.
Always, “Dancing Dan” Sloan seemed to bring smiles to the commuting masses.
“He danced and whipped his signs around, and I think people were amused by him,” said Samuel Carter, who lives in the area and frequently observed Sloan on the corner where he entertained by day and slept at night. He was a fixture in the neighborhood for years, said Carter and others.
This week, Sloan lay in an intensive care unit bed after he was beaten badly and left for dead on his corner. On Tuesday, his black bicycle remained chained to a post at his intersection, decorated with a withering rose stem next to a tattered cardboard sign that proclaimed “Jesus Loves You!”
Police said they are investigating who assaulted Sloan, but have little information. Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies found him late Sunday night, bleeding from an apparent “assault and battery,” said spokesman Nick Goncalves.
Sloan is clueless as to who might have wanted to hurt him.
“It happened when I fell asleep,” he said from his hospital bed Tuesday, his left eye blackened, a wound scissoring across his forehead. “They just attacked me. They knocked me out.”
Thin and soft spoken, with a goatee and closely cropped hair, Sloan, who said he is 52 (although voter registration records list him as 61), is known in the Arden neighborhood as a gentle soul who was mostly silent as he went about his business in front of a Starbucks coffee shop.
Nimsi Britton would see him most every day as she walked to and from her job at the nearby Jimboy’s Tacos.
“Sometimes he would say ‘Hi,’ but mostly he just danced around and kept to himself,” she said.
He would often come to the restaurant for water, but never asked for food or help, she said.
“He never bothered anyone,” Britton said. At night, she added, he curled up in a sleeping bag.
“Why would someone do this to someone like him?” she asked. Sloan’s attack, she said, has left her sad and frightened. “I feel bad. I feel concerned. I feel unsafe.”
Sloan said he hails from Missouri, but has spent “at least” a couple of decades in Sacramento. He said he believes he was chosen by God to entertain people in a world that sometimes can be cruel.
“Anything I can do to entertain the younger people,” he said. “I’m doing this for God, my father. My joy is to the Lord.” He also has twirled signs for money, spinning advertisements for an electronics repair shop, among other businesses.
Christopher Love, owner of Love 2 Fix, said Sloan would spin the shop’s signs “with a passion unlike anyone else I’ve hired for it.”
Sloan has told acquaintances that he left home at an early age and is a former Army ranger, though that information could not be confirmed.
Two deputies who patrol the area said they occasionally received calls about Sloan “acting strangely,” but that he was not a menacing presence. Sacramento County court records show no recent arrests under Sloan’s name.
“It’s kind of sad,” Deputy Andrew Erhart said. “Dancing Dan basically sticks to himself. He didn’t harm anyone.”
A crowdfunding page that praises Sloan’s “professionalism, incomparable style, and unfailingly upbeat attitude,” has raised $4,340 of its $6,000 goal toward getting him “back on his dancing feet” as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Carmichael resident Jason Hughes’ wife created the crowdfunding page soon after hearing news of the beating. The owner of Sacramento Shirt Shop said he and his wife have seen Sloan “upbeat and always working” in the neighborhood for about 10 years.
“Every time we pass him by with our kids, (they) go ‘Dancing Dan! Dancing Dan!’ ” Hughes said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sloan was transferred out of the ICU at Kaiser Permanente on Morse Avenue, just a couple of blocks from where he twirled, and into a regular room, officials said.
Sloan vowed to be dancing again at Morse and Arden as soon as possible.
“I’ve got to go back,” he said.
As for his assailants, he said, “I forgive them. It’s not for me to be angry at them. It’s for me to help change them.
“We just have to learn to love each other,” he said, tears in his eyes. “That is all.”
Bee reporter Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks contributed to this story.