Man in custody after police warn of possible serial killer targeting homeless people

Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was identified Saturday after police in Los Angeles warned of a possible serial killer targeting homeless people. Photo courtesy of LAPD
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Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A suspect was identified Saturday after police in Los Angeles warned of a possible serial killer targeting homeless people.

Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was already placed into custody after he was believed to have killed Nicholas Simbolon, a county employee, during a robbery at his home in San Dimas on Tuesday, police said in a statement on Twitter. Detectives are seeking info on possible additional victims.

Powell murdered the three unhoused men without provocation while they slept, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a live-streamed news conference. So far, Powell is suspected of killing four men total over four days beginning last Sunday.

"Mr. Powell was identified as being behind the senseless killing of Nicholas Simbolon, a husband and father of two young children, at his home in San Dimas," Moore said.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department identified the car Powell allegedly used in the killing of Simbolon, which was alerted to law enforcement. Officers with the Beverly Hills Police Department discovered the car and stopped it, arresting Powell on Wednesday evening and recovering the weapon he used.

Meanwhile, the LAPD identified the vehicle it had believed was connected to the three homeless homicides as being the same one Powell allegedly used during the murder of Simbolon, Moore said.

Forensics teams later confirmed that the weapon recovered from Powell tied to the murder of Simbolon was also used to kill the three homeless men and that the car was at all three murder scenes. And his physical appearance is consistent with surveillance videos.

"We have not yet established a motive of Mr. Powell in these three murders. I am grateful that the suspect is in custody and no longer a threat to the community," Moore said.

Moore praised Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass for her leadership of the city through the crime spree and her mobility of local resources for the homeless, such as housing providers, to protect what he called "one of our most vulnerable populations."

"When we come together as a city and a region, nothing can stop Los Angeles," Bass said in remarks during the news conference. "We step up to challenges and address them."

The possibility of a serial killer had been announced just less than 24 hours previously, when police released a photo of the man and the vehicle believed to have been involved. Authorities have now also released a mugshot of Powell.

The city has an estimated homeless population of 46,260 people, with more than 75,500 in all of Los Angeles County, according to the 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

In Las Vegas, police were investigating a shooting that left one dead and four people injured. Police described all five victims as "unhoused" at the time.