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Los Angeles serial killer may have more victims nationwide, police say

Jerrid Joseph Powell is already facing charges for shooting three homeless men

Andrea Cavallier
Thursday 14 December 2023 18:47 GMT
Officials announce arrest, 3 homeless murders

A week after a suspected serial killer went on a murderous rampage in Los Angeles, fatally shooting four men in a span of just four days, authorities are examining other unsolved slayings for fear the attacks weren’t the only ones.

Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was charged Monday with murder in the shootings of three homeless men as they slept or sat outside, and the murder of an LA County employee, who was found shot to death inside his garage in San Dimas.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the devastating amount of violence allegedly committed by Powell during such a short period of time raised questions about whether or not the shootings were the only attacks, NBC Los Angeles reported.

“We’re unclear whether or not he has any prior violence that may have been unsolved or undetected to this point,” Chief Moore said.

The shootings happened on consecutive days between 26 November and 29 November. Detectives are now looking into other unsolved murders in case there is evidence that Mr Powell could be responsible, Mr Moore added.

Jerrid Joseph Powell appears at an arraignment at Los Angeles superior court on Monday (AP)

“The department is also working across the United States, working with our federal partners, the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, to identify this gunman’s actions,” he said.

Mr Powell was arrested last week as a suspect in a deadly shooting of Nicholas Simbolon, 42, during a botched robbery at a San Dimas home, just east of Los Angeles.

Mr Powell, a Los Angeles resident, was then identified as a suspect in the killings of the three homeless men when his licence plate on his BMW was detected by the automated license plate scanning system operated by the Beverly Hills Police Department. The plate had been also been identified in the San Dimas murder.

A firearm found in his car was linked to all four shootings, authorities said.

The motive for the killings of the homeless victims was not known, Chief Moore said during a weekend press conference announcing the arrest.

Powell was identified as a suspect in the killings of the three homeless men when his license plate on his BMW was detected by the automated license plate scanning system - and linked to the fourth murder in San Dimas (LAPD)

Jose Bolanos, 37, was found dead with a gunshot wound around 3am on 26 November, in an alley in South Los Angeles, police said. The following day, Mark Diggs, 62, was shot and killed while pushing a shopping cart around 5am near downtown, according to officials.

The third shooting occurred around 2.30am on 29 November in the Lincoln Heights area, where the body of a 52-year-old man was found. Police did not immediately identify him pending notification of family.

Meanwhile, on 28 November, 42-year-old Simbolon had been shot dead in the garage of his home in San Dimas. Authorities obtained surveillance images of a suspect vehicle, and the following night a license plate reader in Beverly Hills alerted police who made a traffic stop, resulting in Mr Powell’s arrest.

On Monday, Mr Powell was charged with four counts of murder and one count of residential robbery and one count of being a felon with a firearm, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. He also faces special circumstances of committing multiple murders, murder in the course of a robbery, as well as personal use of a firearm, the statement said.

Mr Powell did not enter a plea and his arraignment was continued to 8 January. If convicted on all charges, Powell faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“As with each client, our office will pursue a vigorous defense on behalf of Mr. Powell and hold the prosecution to its burden of proof. According to the tenets of our criminal legal system, Mr. Powell remains presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” the public defender’s office said in a statement.

This photo released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shows suspect Jerrid Joseph Powell (AP)

Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous, with about 10 million people, and was home to more than one in five of the nation’s homeless people, according to a 2022 federal tally. As of January, the last official count, more than 75,000 people were homeless across the county on any given night.

Advocates for homeless people say those living on the streets are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators, The Associated Press reported.

Five homeless people were shot in Las Vegas on Friday, one of them fatally, and police were searching for a lone suspect, authorities said. Las Vegas police said in a news release Monday evening that they were aware of the shootings in Los Angeles and “ruled out any correlation.”

In Orange County, California, a man was charged with killing four homeless men in a series of stabbings from late 2011 to early 2012. Itzcoatl Ocampo, a former Marine, was charged with four counts of murder with special allegations of multiple murders, lying in wait and use of a deadly weapon in the killings. Ocampo died awaiting trial after reportedly eating cleanser he had collected slowly while in custody.

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