Arrest made in killing of 3 homeless people, LAPD says; suspect also tied to San Dimas murder

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Sunday, December 3, 2023
Suspect in custody after 3 fatal shootings of homeless people: LAPD
Police Chief Michel Moore announced that a suspect has been arrested in the murders of three homeless men in Los Angeles this week.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The suspect in the three fatal shootings of homeless people in Los Angeles was identified as a man who was already in custody after being arrested earlier this week in connection with the murder of a San Dimas resident who was shot during a follow-home robbery, authorities announced Saturday.

The suspect -- identified as Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33 -- was formally arrested on Saturday for the killings of the three unhoused men, who were shot while sleeping alone on a sidewalk or an alley, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said at an afternoon news conference.

Powell was already in custody for the San Dimas homicide that occurred Tuesday night during the follow-home robbery, police said.

In that case, Powell allegedly followed 42-year-old Nicholas Simbolon, an employee of the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, from a charging station in West Covina to his home. There he robbed and shot him, then fled the scene, authorities said.

Fatal shooting suspect allegedly followed man home from West Covina to San Dimas

Investigators say the suspect followed the victim from a charging station in West Covina to his home in San Dimas, then robbed and shot him in his garage.

"Over the course of our investigation of our murders, we were able to identify the vehicle we believe was connected to all three homicides as being the same vehicle Mr. Powell used in the murder of Mr. Simbolon," said Moore.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said members of the Beverly Hills Police Department conducted a traffic stop of Powell's vehicle Wednesday night, and Powell was arrested early Thursday. Luna said his vehicle was tracked down by one of the city's automatic license plate scanners.

"If we did not enter that plate into the system, this individual we believe is responsible for at least four murders would have been out there and reoffended," said Luna.

A handgun recovered from Powell's vehicle was the same weapon used in the three killings, according to Moore.

Timeline of murders

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

"It was chilling, and I've been in this work 4+ decades," said Moore. "The cold blooded manner in which he walks up and shoots this individual without any hesitation, no interactions, and then leaves that location."

According to the chief and the county medical examiner, the victim in Sunday's shooting was Jose Bolanos, 37. Killed on Monday was 62-year-old Mark Diggs. The victim in Wednesday's shooting was a 52-year-old man, but his name was being withheld pending notification of relatives.

On Tuesday, Simbolon was found by his wife inside his Tesla in the garage of the home, suffering from a gunshot to the upper body, according to witnesses and sheriff's officials. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

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

"Killer who's preying on the unhoused"

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said his staff would be working on further charges Monday.

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

Authorities said they can't discount 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 urged anyone with relevant information about Powell to contact police or sheriff's officials.

The killings struck fear among the city's vast homeless population, and Bass urged unhoused people to avoid sleeping alone outdoors and instead seek company or shelter.

"This news is devastating to our city,'' Bass said Friday. "Living on the streets we already know is dangerous. We already know that four to five people die each day on our streets from a range of causes, and violence is certainly one of them. But I want to be very clear about what we're facing today. This is a killer who's preying on the unhoused.''

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority activated its Augmented Winter Shelter Program in an attempt to provide additional safety for unhoused individuals, extending the program through Monday night.

This means that in addition to traditional shelters at fixed sites in the city and elsewhere in Los Angeles County, the program will provide additional interim housing options, typically using motel vouchers.

ABC News and City News Service contributed to this report.