Suspect in three homeless murders arrested, linked to another homicide

Los Angeles homeless killings: Suspect arrested in connection to murders
Los Angeles homeless killings: Suspect arrested in connection to murders - Image credit CNN

LOS ANGELES (MM) – Authorities announced Saturday that they have arrested a man suspected of fatally shooting three homeless people in Los Angeles, who was already in custody for another murder in San Dimas.

The man, identified as 33-year-old Jerrid Joseph Powell, was formally charged on Saturday for the deaths of the three homeless men, who were killed while sleeping alone on a sidewalk or an alley, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, who spoke at an afternoon news conference.

Powell had been arrested earlier this week for the murder of 42-year-old Nicholas Simbolon, an employee of the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, who was shot during a follow-home robbery on Tuesday night, police said.

Powell allegedly followed Simbolon from a charging station in West Covina to his home, where he robbed and shot him, then escaped, authorities said.

“During our investigation of the murders, we identified the vehicle that we believe was involved in all three homicides as the same vehicle that Mr. Powell used in the murder of Mr. Simbolon,” Moore said.

Moore also said that a handgun found in Powell’s vehicle was the same weapon used in the three shootings.

Murders timeline The first homeless murder happened around 3 a.m. Sunday in the 800 block of West 110th Street, followed by another one at about 5 a.m. Monday in the 800 block of East Seventh Street, and a third one at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at South Avenue 18 and South Pasadena Avenue, Moore said.

“Each of the victims were in an open area, either a sidewalk or alley, they were alone,” Moore said previously. “We believe that a single person approached each one and shot and killed each one as they slept.”

The county medical examiner and the chief identified the victim in Sunday’s shooting as Jose Bolanos, 37. The victim on Monday was 62-year-old Mark Diggs. The name of the 52-year-old man killed on Wednesday was not released, pending notification of relatives.

Simbolon was found by his wife in his Tesla in the garage of his home, with a gunshot wound to the upper body, witnesses and sheriff’s officials said. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

The sheriff said there was no connection between the four murders, and no relationship between Powell and Simbolon.

“Predator targeting the homeless” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said his staff would work on additional charges on Monday.

“The residents of Los Angeles County can breathe a sigh of relief today. Once a case is presented, our team will ensure that justice is served,” Gascón said.

Authorities said they could not rule out the possibility that Powell might have committed other crimes.

“Based on his criminal history, he didn’t just start doing this a week ago,” Luna said. They asked anyone with information about Powell to contact police or sheriff’s officials.

The murders caused fear among the city’s large homeless population, and Bass urged homeless people to avoid sleeping alone outdoors and instead seek company or shelter.

“This news is devastating to our city,” Bass said Friday. “We know that living on the streets is dangerous. We know that four to five people die each day on our streets from various causes, and violence is one of them. But I want to be very clear about what we’re facing today. This is a predator targeting the homeless.”

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority activated its Augmented Winter Shelter Program to provide more safety for homeless individuals, extending the program through Monday night.

The program will offer extra temporary housing alternatives, such as motel vouchers, in addition to conventional shelters at established locations in the city and across the county.