LA police arrest suspect linked to homicides of three homeless men

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the suspected serial killer attacked the victims as they slept

Andrea Blanco
Saturday 02 December 2023 22:57 GMT

DA Gascón says authorities are searching for homeless killer

Officials in Los Angeles have announced an arrest in connection with the homicides of three homeless men earlier this week.

Authorities have identified the suspect as 33-year-old Jerrid Joseph Powell, NBC reports. City officials had asked for the public’s assistance after revealing during an emergency press conference on Friday that three unhoused men had been murdered in the span of four days.

The first victim was shot at around 3.10am on 26 November in the Westmont neighbourhood as he slept on a couch in a rear alley. The second man was killed at around 4.55am the next day in downtown Los Angeles after he leaned on a wall while he waited for his phone to charge.

The last killing took place at around 2.30am on Wednesday in Lincoln Heights as the victim slept on a sidewalk. The victims have been identified as 37-year-old Jose Bolanos, Mark Diggs, 62, and a 52-year-old Hispanic man whose name has not been released pending family notification.

Mr Powell was taken into custody on Thursday over the murder of 42-year-old father-of-two Nicholas Simbolon on Tuesday, authorities told NBC. Simbolon was followed 12 miles to his home in San Dimas and robbed of “some personal belongings” before being fatally shot.

While in custody, Mr Powell’s vehicle was linked to surveillance video from the scene of the attack on Diggs.

Police in Los Angeles have said they believe a serial killer preying on the homeless is on the loose

A gun was recovered from the car, police said.

Chief Moore said there were similarities in the way the crimes were carried out that suggested a link; the murders all happened before 5am and the unhoused men appeared to be sleeping on a sidewalk or an alleyway when they were fatally shot.

Before the developments on Saturday evening, he warned that the perpetrator appeared to have targeted victims who were alone, not homeless encampments.

Law enforcement provided grabs from surveillance video of the alleged killer and their vehicle

“The commonalities among these homicides are that each of the victims was in an open area, alone,” Chief Moore said. “We believe a single individual approached each one and shot and killed each one as they slept.”

Police earlier released screengrabs from surveillance footage of who they said is the alleged serial killer and his vehicle. In the image, the suspect is seen wearing what appears to be a light-coloured hoodie and dark pants.

Chief Moore said that additional video of the moments leading up to the third homicide will not be released at this time.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during the emergency press conference that three murders took place in the span of four days

The city had set up temporary winter shelters for the homeless and patrol was increased in open areas where the homeless tend to sleep. Mayor Karen Bass had asked the public to spread the word about the investigation and encouraged the homeless population to seek shelter.

“We need you to tell them about this danger, we need you to tell them they’re not alone tonight,” the mayor said. “Our message to the unhoused community is clear; do not sleep alone tonight, seek shelter, seek services, stay together.”

Chief Moore said that homicide detectives from different posts have been brought into the investigation and that a forensic team is readily available to process evidence in a timely manner.

Leadership in over 40 agencies has been kept in the loop about developments in the string of killings, Chief Moore said.

Anyone with information about the killings is asked to call the Homicide Special Section, at (213) 486-6890.

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