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Suspect in fatal shootings of 3 homeless men in LA already behind bars for separate homicide

Police announce arrest in connection with homeless killings; connect suspect to different homicide
Police announce arrest in connection with homeless killings; connect suspect to different homicide 02:42

A man identified as a suspect in the killings of three Los Angeles homeless men as they slept this week was already in custody in connection with another slaying that occurred in nearby San Dimas, police said Saturday.

Jerrid Joseph Powell, the man in custody for fatally shooting four men in four days across Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

The suspect, identified as 33-year-old Los Angeles man Jerrid Joseph Powell, was behind bars on Saturday for his alleged role in a follow-home robbery turned homicide in San Dimas on Tuesday, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during a press conference.

Despite already being in custody, Powell was again formally arrested on Saturday on suspicion of killing three homeless men in separate shootings carried out this week in different parts of the city of Los Angeles. 

Chief Moore said that after his first arrest, investigators located a handgun in Powell's car that was used in the three homeless killings, all of which occurred in open areas in the early morning hours. They also believe the victims were shot while they slept.

The four killings happened over the span of four days, starting on Sunday, Nov. 26, at around 3 a.m. in the southeast area of Los Angeles, where 37-year-old Jose Vamos was shot in an alley in the 800 block of West 110th Street. 

Another shooting occurred in the city's Central division on Monday, Nov. 27, at around 4:55 a.m. on the 800 block of East Seventh Street along a rear wall. The victim was identified as Mark Diggs, a 62-year-old man. 

The third shooting involving a homeless individual occurred within the Hollenbeck division on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at around 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of South Avenue 18 and Pasadena Avenue. The victim has thus far only been identified as a 52-year-old man. 

Surveillance footage photos of the suspect and vehicle investigators connected to the killings. Los Angeles Police Department

Investigators have now been able to connect Powell to the fatal shooting of 42-year-old Nicholas Simbolon, a Los Angeles County employee who was found by his wife after he shot inside of his Tesla in the garage of his San Dimas home on Tuesday, Nov. 28. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna also spoke at Saturday's press conference, detailing how surveillance footage helped investigators determine that Powell followed Simbolon home from an electric vehicle charging station in West Covina. He then approached Simbolon in his garage, robbed him and "senselessly" shot him. 

Police were alerted that Powell's vehicle of interest entered Beverly Hills late Wednesday evening thanks to their surveillance video system. They were able to utilize an automatic license plate reading technology to track his vehicle, leading to his eventual arrest.

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

He was booked early Thursday morning on suspicion of murder and robbery and was being held in lieu of $2 million bail prior to his connection to the three homeless killings. 

Investigators do not believe that Powell has any connection to the four victims. They noted that Powell is a convicted felon with a background that includes violent crime.

"Based on his criminal history, he didn't just start doing this a week ago," Sheriff Luna said.

At a press conference the day prior, Moore noted that LAPD had created a task force Robbery-Homicide division, which included investigators from multiple specialties.

LA County worker killed in follow-home robbery 02:30

"We're bringing Homicide investigators from throughout the city," Moore said at the time. "We're bringing additional investigators from specialized posts, and we have placed our forensic science division on ready so that any forensic evidence that is gathered is also quickly processed and analyzed in an effort to identify the person we believe responsible for these three homicides."

Moore said that he had contacted officials from surrounding cities, looking for similar crimes with similarities.

"We have no unsolved homicides outside the city of Los Angeles," Moore said. "Yet our work continues in identifying whether there are any other shooting victims of persons who are experiencing homelessness, which are unsolved and may have any similarities to these homicides."

Mayor Karen Bass urged people living on the streets to seek shelter immediately in the hours following their announcement.

"Our message to the unhoused community is clear — do not sleep alone tonight. Seek shelter, seek services, stay together, seek support and we need your help to get the word out," Bass said.

As a result, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority activated its winter shelter program for the homeless community in an attempt to provide additional safety as the search for the suspect continued. 

If you have any information in any of these cases, you are urged to contact the tipline at (213) 486-6890. 

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