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Los Angeles Man Accused of Killing of 3 Homeless People

Los Angeles Man Accused of Killing of 3 Homeless People

Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook (L), 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 in Los Angeles, on Dec. 2, 2023. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

City News Service

City News Service

12/2/2023

Updated: 12/3/2023

LOS ANGELES—Additional charges could be filed Dec. 4 against a 33-year-old felon accused of murdering three homeless men in Los Angeles, who has already been charged with the follow-home killing of a Los Angeles County employee in San Dimas.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Saturday that authorities linked Jerrid Joseph Powell of Los Angeles, who was arrested in Beverly Hills early Thursday for the San Dimas murder, to the fatal shootings of the three homeless men.
A handgun recovered from Mr. Powell’s vehicle was used in the three homeless killings, Mr. Moore said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said members of the Beverly Hills Police Department conducted a traffic stop of Mr. Powell’s vehicle Wednesday night, and the man was arrested early Thursday.
Mr. Luna said the vehicle was linked to Mr. Powell after the San Dimas killing, which occurred just before 7 p.m. Tuesday in the garage of a home in the 1800 block of Hawkbrook Drive.
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, Mr. Moore said.
“Each of the victims were in an open area, be it a sidewalk or alley, [and] they were alone,” Mr. Moore said previously. “We believe a single individual approached each one and shot and killed each one as they slept. The investigators have gathered physical evidence as well as video images and we’ve identified this possible male lone individual as well as a vehicle.”
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, Nicholas Simbolon, 42, who worked as a project manager in the Los Angeles County executive office, 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.
According to Mr. Luna, surveillance video determined that Mr. Simbolon was apparently followed home from an electric-vehicle charging station in the 200 block of South Citrus Street in West Covina. The suspect approached Mr. Simbolon in the garage, stole some unspecified items, then “senselessly” shot him, Mr. Luna said.
The sheriff said investigators saw a vehicle of interest on surveillance video that was believed to be connected to the crime. The vehicle was spotted Wednesday near Santa Monica Boulevard and Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills, and police pulled the driver over, leading to his arrest.
Mr. Luna said the gun found in the vehicle is also believed to be the one used to killed Mr. Simbolon. The sheriff said there was no known connection among the four killings, and no known relationship between Mr. Powell and Mr. Simbolon.
Mr. Powell was booked early Thursday morning on suspicion of murder and robbery. According to jail records, he was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said his staff would be working on further charges Monday.
“My heart goes out to the family on this tremendous loss,” San Dimas Mayor Emmett Badar said in a statement Wednesday. “This is a priority investigation and I have faith in our sheriff’s office to properly investigate and bring this suspect to justice.”
Mr. Simbolon is survived by his mother, wife, and two sons, aged 8 and 10, Mr. Luna said.
County CEO Fesia Davenport said Mr. Simbolon was a seven-year county employee, previously working at the county Superior Court, then joining her office in 2019. She said he was “key and instrumental in developing many software apps for the CEO’s office.”
Authorities said they can’t discount the possibility that Mr. Powell might have committed other crimes.
“Based on his criminal history, he didn’t just start doing this a week ago,” Mr. 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 Mayor Karen Bass urged unhoused people to avoid sleeping alone outdoors and instead seek company or shelter.
“This news is devastating to our city,” Ms. 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.
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