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Police arrest suspect in killing of three homeless men in Los Angeles

A man in a police uniform stands behind a podium with three other people standing directly to his left.
Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook, left, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore announce the arrest of a suspect in three recent killings of homeless men on Saturday. | Source: AP

A Los Angeles man already in custody in connection with another shooting investigation has been identified as the suspect in three recent killings of homeless men, police said Saturday afternoon.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was identified as the suspect in the three killings after authorities determined a firearm found in a vehicle he was driving when he was arrested earlier was linked to the shootings.

RELATED: 3 Homeless People in L.A. Shot to Death; Police Suspect Serial Killer

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested Powell this week for their investigation of the shooting death and robbery of a 42-year-old man late Tuesday after he returned to his home in the community of San Dimas, about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

The announcement came a day after Los Angeles authorities said they were searching for a suspect in the shootings of three homeless men and urged homeless individuals to not sleep alone for their own safety.

The shootings took place at the end of November during early morning hours while the victims were sleeping or preparing to turn in for the night.

Jose Bolanos, 37, was found dead with a gunshot wound around 3 a.m. Nov. 26 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 5 a.m. near downtown, according to officials.

The third homeless shooting occurred Wednesday at about 2:30 a.m. 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.

After the San Dimas shooting, detectives identified Powell’s vehicle through surveillance footage and tracked it to the city of Beverly Hills, where police stopped him Wednesday and found the firearm inside, authorities said.

“I am grateful that this suspect in this case is in custody and no longer a threat to this community,” Moore told reporters.

It was not immediately possible to identify an attorney for Powell, who is due to appear in court Monday. Online jail records show he was arrested Thursday and is being held on $2 million bail.

Moore asked the public to come forward with any additional information. He said authorities did not believe there was any connection between Powell and the victims.

He said authorities worked quickly across agencies to identify the suspect, aided by surveillance technology.

“Had they not had access to those tools, this individual, I am convinced, would still be moving about the city and the region, and killing individuals,” Moore said.

The announcement came after five homeless people were shot in Las Vegas on Friday, one of them fatally. Police there were searching for a lone suspect, authorities said.

The killings in Los Angeles are the latest in a series of attacks against unhoused Californians in recent years.

In 2018, a 47-year-old Houston man named Ramon Escobar was arrested and charged after beating to death four people and severely injuring several others in a spate of attacks in downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. He was later sentenced to life in prison for the killings.

Last year, Wesley Brownlee was arrested and charged in San Joaquin County with a spree of shootings, seven of which were fatal, in Stockton and the Bay Area. Investigators noted in that case that three of the men who were fatally shot and two of the victims who survived were unhoused.

In San Francisco, a homeless man allegedly beat Don Carmignani, a cannabis entrepreneur and former city fire commissioner, with a metal rod in an April 5 attack in the Marina District. Carmignani was later accused of bear-spraying homeless people several times prior to his assault. The former commissioner and his attorneys have denied that he was involved.