Suspect in 'bone-chilling' homeless killings charged with 4 counts of murder

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 04: Jerrid Joseph Powell stands in the Dept. 30 Criminal Courthouse,was charged with four counts of murder on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. He was wanted for a series of shootings that left three homeless men dead across Los Angeles last week. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Jerrid Joseph Powell, center, was charged with four counts of murder on Monday in connection with a series of shootings that left three homeless men and a Los Angeles County employee dead. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The man wanted in a series of shootings that left three homeless men dead across Los Angeles last week was charged Monday with four counts of murder, prosecutors said.

Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was charged with four counts of murder, one count of robbery and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He appeared in a downtown courtroom Monday afternoon but did not enter a plea. His scheduled arraignment was continued until January, and he was remanded into custody without bail.

“I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the incredible men and women of law enforcement who worked tirelessly to bring justice to our community and arrest this individual,” Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement. “The swift actions of law enforcement undoubtedly saved lives this week.”

Prosecutors also filed special circumstances allegations claiming Powell committed multiple murders. If convicted as charged, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Read more: Suspect arrested in killings of three L.A. homeless people

Authorities say Powell, 33, of Los Angeles, began the string of attacks before dawn on Nov. 26. About 3:10 a.m., 37-year-old Jose Bolanos was shot while sleeping on a couch near 110th Street and Vermont Avenue.

Roughly 24 hours later, Powell shot 62-year-old Mark Diggs on San Mateo Street near the Arts District as Diggs pushed a shopping cart and looked for a place to charge his phone, prosecutors said.

Around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, a third victim — identified in charging documents as Shawn Alvarez, 52 — was shot and killed in Lincoln Heights, police said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Saturday that police had not identified a motive in the slayings, but that Powell had not robbed the victims and had "no interaction" with them. He described a video of Diggs' slaying as "bone-chilling" and said Powell shot the man with no warning or provocation.

Robbery-Homicide Division Capt. Scot Williams said investigators are "looking into every aspect of Powell's life" to discern a potential motive for the shootings, "but at this point, it is a mystery."

Read more: L.A. police search for gunman who killed 3 homeless people as they slept

Powell was arrested Wednesday night in Beverly Hills during a traffic stop after his car was linked to a fatal shooting three days earlier in San Dimas.

Nicholas Simbolon, an employee of the Los Angeles County chief executive's office, was killed in what police have termed a "follow-home robbery." Simbolon's wife found the 42-year-old with a gunshot wound, slumped inside his Tesla in the garage of their home on Hawkbrook Drive, according to Sheriff Robert Luna, who said the shooter stole a few things during the targeted attack.

Police say Powell fled the scene in a 2024 BMW M440i. The vehicle, which costs upward of $62,000 and which authorities say Powell owns, was spotted in Beverly Hills three days later by officers, who initiated a traffic stop and took Powell into custody. He wasn't linked to the killings of the homeless victims until late Friday or early Saturday.

Read more: Inside the hunt for a serial killer stalking Stockton: ‘This person’s on a mission’

It was not immediately clear whether Powell was employed; he was represented by a public defender. He previously worked as a gang intervention specialist for the city of Compton, according to public salary data collected in 2016 by Transparent California.

Court records show Powell has an extensive criminal and legal history in California.

In 2017, he was convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license, and in 2019, he was convicted of trespassing.

Prior to those offenses, he had two restraining orders filed against him — one in 2013 by a woman in Los Angeles and another in 2016 by a woman in San Bernardino. Both were quickly dropped.

Powell's then-girlfriend, whom The Times is not identifying, was in a relationship and living with Powell in 2016 and said he physically abused her, causing her to lose a pregnancy.

"It was very common for him to lose his temper," the woman said of Powell. "It was like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of thing."

She said Powell would often get upset over the tiniest things. "If the weather was windy or if it was cold, if something wasn't done to his liking, he would attack," she said.

She said when she filed for a restraining order in June 2016 and left the apartment she and Powell shared, her name was supposed to be removed from the lease. But that never happened and she ultimately ended up paying the rental company nearly $6,000.

When the woman, who lives out of state, learned about the killings through a news story, she worried that she could have been one of the victims.

Although most of the crimes Powell is accused of committing were low-level offenses, he was charged in 2018 with assault with a deadly weapon after stabbing a man with a knife, according to San Bernardino court records reviewed by The Times.

He pleaded guilty to a lower-level felony in that case and served nearly 400 days in jail, according to court records.

Moore said investigators will try to reconstruct Powell’s movements to see if he left “a path of destruction behind him that we have not yet determined.” Luna said that based on his criminal history, "he didn't just start doing this a week ago."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.