Officials in Los Angeles have said they’re hunting for a serial killer believed to have gunned down three homeless men as they slept.
Authorities gathered on Friday to ask for the public’s assistance in capturing an individual tpreying on the unhoused population. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during the emergency press conference that three murders took place in the span of four days.
The first shooting was reported in the early morning hours of 26 November in the Westmont neighbourhood. A second body was found at around 4.55am the next day in downtown Los Angeles, and the last killing took place at around 2.30am on Wednesday in Lincoln Heights.
The victims have been identified as 37-year-old Jose Pelanos, Mark Diggs, 62, and a 52-year-old Hispanic man whose name has not been released pending family notification.
Chief Moore said there were similarities in the way the crimes were carried out that suggested a link; the murders all happened before 5am and the unhoused men appeared to be sleeping on a sidewalk or an alleyway when they were fatally shot.
“The commonalities among these homicides are that each of the victims was in an open area, alone,” Chief Moore said. “We believe a single individual approached each one and shot and killed each one as they slept.”
Police also released screengrabs from surveillance footage of who they said is the alleged serial killer and their vehicle. In the image, the suspect is seen wearing what appears to be a light-coloured hoodie and dark pants.
Chief Moore declined to described the exact model of the car shown in the footage.
The city has set up temporary winter shelters for the homeless and patrol has increased in open areas where the homeless tend to sleep. Mayor Karen Bass asked the public to spread the word about the investigation and encouraged the homeless population to seek shelter.
“We need you to tell them about this danger, we need you to tell them they’re not alone tonight,” the mayor said, noting that individuals, not encamptments, are being targeted. “Our message to the unhoused community is clear; do not sleep alone tonight, seek shelter, seek services, stay together.”
Chief Moore said that homicide detectives from different posts have been brought into the investigation and that a forensic team is readily available to process evidence in a timely manner. The chief said he is in communication with law enforcement departments in Glendale, Pasadena and Longbeach, but believes that, at this time, the killer has not struck out of LA.
Anyone with information about the killings is asked to call detectives at 213-486-6890.
This is a ddeveloping story … check again for updates.