Los Angeles police announced Saturday that a suspect has been identified in connection with the killings of three homeless men this week.
The suspect, Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was already in custody after having been arrested in the killing of a county employee earlier in the week.
Powell was arrested Thursday and accused of shooting and killing a San Dimas, California, father of two during a follow-home robbery Tuesday.
An image released by police shows a person suspected in the killings of three homeless people in Los Angeles. LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore said Saturday that police were able to match Powell’s car, seen in security video from the killing Tuesday, to the car they had identified as being driven by the suspect believed to be responsible for killing the three homeless people.
A handgun found in that car also matched the weapon used in the killings of the three homeless people, police said.
Moore said the case has a “striking set of circumstances that is puzzling.”
Powell was arrested early Thursday in Beverly Hills on charges of murder and robbery after detectives and Beverly Hills police identified the vehicle used in the killing Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said. The Beverly Hills police were then able to arrest the suspect at a traffic stop after they matched his license plate to that of the car used in the killing Tuesday.
“The next objective is to put this guy away at minimum forever, because he doesn’t deserve to be out on the street,” Luna said.
Police had been searching for the gunman responsible for killing three sleeping homeless people in Los Angeles this week before they connected Powell to the crimes.
Police had believed that the same person was responsible for all three deaths.
The three separate attacks took place in the early hours of Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, Moore said Friday.
All three victims are men. They were all asleep in open areas — like alleys or sidewalks — when they were shot and killed, Moore said.
One of the men was killed “brutally and ruthlessly” while he was sleeping on a couch, Moore said, and another was killed as he was leaned against a wall in a manner he described as “chilling.”
The third was fatally shot as he slept on a sidewalk, police said.
A motive had not been established.
All three killings happened in different places in two large areas of Los Angeles that are not frequented by large numbers of homeless people, Moore said.
Mayor Karen Bass cautioned Friday that no homeless person should sleep alone and said the city would open emergency shelters to house homeless people for the time being.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said an emergency shelter will be available for homeless people Saturday night.
Bass said at the news conference Friday: “Our message to the unhoused community is clear: Do not sleep alone tonight. Seek shelter, seek services, stay together.”
Powell was jailed Thursday in the death of Nicholas Simbolon, 42, who was found dead in his garage in San Dimas on Tuesday night.
Luna said Thursday that it appeared the shooter followed Simbolon 12 miles from an electric vehicle charging station to his home. He robbed Simbolon of “some personal belongings” before he shot him and fled, Luna said.
Simbolon was a county employee for seven years. He had worked as a business systems analyst for the superior court and in 2019 joined the IT staff of the chief executive’s office as a principal systems analyst, officials said.
“He was a prolific developer who had recently completed an innovative IT system to process our county’s budget process,” Kathyrn Barger, a member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a statement read at a news conference Thursday announcing Powell’s arrest. “His coworkers describe him as kind, gentle and hardworking person.”
Officials did not announce any charges for Powell on Saturday.
Police ask anyone with information about the suspect, including other crimes he may have committed, to come forward. He was described as a convicted felon who had “violence in his background.”
“We want to make sure that anybody who may have been a victim of this individual that they come forward and notify your own police department,” Luna said.
Rebecca Cohen is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western U.S., specializing in crime, courts and homeland security.