LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Authorities Tuesday were actively searching for an armed man suspected for multiple burglaries in the Shadow Hills and Sunland-Tujunga neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley after he was allegedly spotted trying to breaking into a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power facility.
Los Angeles police told CBSLA that the suspect is believed responsible for up to 10 break-ins at homes and businesses dating back to Oct. 19.
At 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, a security guard for the LADWP spotted the suspect carrying a long gun and trying to enter an LADWP property near the Green Verdugo Reservoir in Sunland-Tujunga, police said. An officer told CBSLA he may have crawled under a gate to gain entrance to the LADWP property.
"The mannerisms, and the way that he moves, and what it looked like, the style of weapon, we do believe that this is the same person," LAPD Lt. Eddie Ginter told reporters Tuesday.
Police sealed off a large perimeter near the Sunland Boulevard exit at the 210 Freeway. Twelve LADWP employees were locked into a room guarded by officers, and nearby residents were told to shelter in place. An LAPD SWAT team was called in, along with K9 units. The 210 Freeway off-ramps to Sunland Boulevard were blocked.
By 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, the suspect was not found and the search perimeter was broken down.
"If he knows any of the drainage systems, or the little rivers that he can go along, that's how we believe he's getting out, or evading us," Ginter said.
However, at 8:50 a.m., police were called to a burglary at a vacant home in the 10000 block of Sunland Way. Officers responded with guns drawn. Electronics, tools and items were stolen from a storage unit at the vacant home. The owner told CBSLA she is in the process of moving.
"I came down to check the property and both deadbolts are off of the POD, and somebody took half of our property," the woman, who did not want to be identified, said.
It's unclear if the Shadow Hills prowler is suspected.
Over the past few weeks, neighbors have been sharing security camera images of the suspect. The images show him carrying different weapons, including an assault rifle and a hunting rifle. Investigators believe that he stole some of the weapons.
"We have everything locked up, we're constantly staying in our house," neighbor Heidi Gonsalves told CBSLA Monday. "'What's that noise?' Checking all our cameras. It's been very, 'What's going on? Why is this happening to us?'"
There have been no confrontations in any of the burglaries, and no reports of shots fired or injuries, police said.
The suspect is stealing various items, police said. In one incident, a security guard was threatened before the suspect ran away.
The burglaries are occurring in a largely equestrian area, with a lot of overgrowth and riverbed spots where neighbors believe the suspect has been able to hide. Frightened neighbors would like to see more patrols in the area.
"They (residents) should be concerned," LAPD Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton told CBSLA Monday.
"We are pretty confident that we have one main suspect that we are looking for," he added.
The suspect is described as Hispanic, 30 to 40 years old, about 6 feet tall and weighing 150 to 170 pounds. He has the tattoo of a marijuana leaf on his upper right arm.
"We have looked into the possibility that this is a person experiencing homelessness," Hamilton said. "We are not counting it out, but we did check areas nearby where some of the people are experiencing homelessness are frequently found, and we have not been able to find a suspect matching the description."
On Tuesday, Ginter said that investigators believe they may have identified the suspect, but are hoping to use DNA and other evidence to confirm it.
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