Thursday, May 23, 2024

Authorities have identified and arrested a suspect in connection with the killings of three homeless men in Los Angeles this week and tied the suspect to a fourth homicide nearby, officials said on Saturday afternoon.

The suspect, identified as Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, a resident of Los Angeles, was already in custody after being arrested on Thursday morning in connection with the killing of a father of two in San Dimas, Calif., in a robbery on Tuesday. Mr. Powell had followed the victim home, officials said.

The three homeless victims — all men who were in alleys or open areas by themselves — were shot and killed in the early morning hours on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, authorities had said. Two of the victims have been identified as Jose Bolanos, 37, and Mark Diggs, 62, who both suffered a gunshot wound to the head, according to the coroner’s report. The third victim has not been identified as his next of kin has not yet been notified.

Authorities said they have not yet established a motive for those killings.

Michel Moore, the Los Angeles police chief, said that authorities had identified a vehicle they believe was used in all four homicides and tied it to Mr. Powell, who was already in custody in connection with the San Dimas killing of Nicholas Simbolon, 42, who officials said was a county employee.

A handgun found in the car also matched the weapon used in the killings of the three homeless men, the authorities said.

It was unclear on Saturday evening whether Mr. Powell had any legal representation or when an arraignment would occur.

“I’m grateful that this suspect in this case is in custody, and no longer a threat to our community,” Chief Moore said.

Residents in the city similarly expressed a sense of relief. Adrian Mendoza, 33, an administration staff member at a community college who lives in Lincoln Heights, a few blocks from where the third homeless victim was killed, said he was happy about the arrest, though he also lamented how exposed homeless residents are.

“Obviously, it’s good that they got caught, but it is unfortunate and not surprising that someone is letting out their frustration targeting the most vulnerable community,” he said, adding that one of the largest cities in the world like Los Angeles ought to be able to help the homeless community.

In June, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported in its last count that there were 46,260 people who were homeless in the city — a 10 percent increase from the year before.

In 2022, 92 people who were homeless or “transient” were killed in Los Angeles, a number that has steadily risen in recent years, according to Crosstown, a nonprofit newsroom that analyzes Los Angeles Police Department data.

The announcement of the arrest of Mr. Powell came one day after the police announced the killings of the three homeless men, said they believed the attacks were connected and asked the public for help.

On Friday, Karen Bass, the mayor of Los Angeles, said the killer was “preying on the unhoused.” Her office said it would open emergency shelters, and she and other officials urged anyone sleeping on the streets in the surrounding areas to find shelter indoors or avoid sleeping alone.

The Los Angeles Mission, a longtime nonprofit that supports homeless people, deployed outreach teams to canvass the Skid Row neighborhood to tell people about the situation and the resources available.

On Saturday before the arrest was announced, residents and workers in Westmont, a neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles where one of the homeless men was killed, expressed a mix of fear and a sad acknowledgment of the dangers that the city’s homeless residents face every day. Some residents were not aware that there was a killer at large. “This is what goes on, man,” said Bernard Johnson, 62, a housekeeper at U-Haul in Westmont. “I hate to see things like that happen to people, but it’s just the way the world is today.”

Dayton Wafer, 76, a retired phone tech worker who has lived in the neighborhood for 47 years, said he feared for his wife. But he added that he was used to homeless people in the area, pointing to a pickup truck parked up the street in which a homeless person had slept in for months.

“We’re living in a fallen society,” he said. “There are individuals who are looking for opportunities to do evil.”

Jill Cowan, Corina Knoll and Rebecca Carballo contributed reporting.

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