Officials in Los Angeles are asking for the public’s help to find a suspect believed to be targeting the homeless community after three unhoused people were fatally shot in their sleep this week.
The first killing happened Sunday around 3 a.m. in an alley; the second took place on Monday just before 5 a.m.; and a third person was killed Wednesday around 2:30 a.m., Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Friday. The victims include two Hispanic men, ages 37 and 52, and a 62-year-old Black man, Moore said.
“As we know, our homelessness individuals are some of our most vulnerable populations,” the chief said during a Friday news conference.
Moore said each of the killings happened under similar circumstances and each of the victims were believed to be alone and sleeping when they were attacked. The killings happened in various locations in the city, including one near Skid Row, an area of downtown Los Angeles known for its large homeless population.
Each of the victims were experiencing homelessness, alone, and killed in an open area, either a sidewalk or an alley, according to Moore. Police believe a single person approached each victim as they slept, opened fire then walked away, he said.
“Do not sleep alone tonight,” warned Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, urging family members to reach out to loved ones they know are on living the streets. “Seek shelter, seek services, stay together, seek support.”
Bass called the news “devastating” to the city, which is home to one of the largest unhoused populations in the country. “This is a killer who is preying on the unhoused.”
The mayor stressed people experiencing homelessness already face dangerous conditions in Los Angeles on a day-to-day basis, noting four to five unhoused people die every single day due to a range of causes, including violence.
The city has directed its office of homelessness and housing solutions to deploy outreach teams city-wide and encourage people to seek shelter, the mayor said.
The Los Angeles Police Department has summoned a task force to work on the case. Homicide investigators from all over the city will assist in the investigation and the agency’s forensic science division will process and analyze evidence to identify any possible suspects, the chief said.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said his office is working with authorities to “uncover the identity of a potential serial killer preying on the most vulnerable in our community.”
Detectives have already gathered physical evidence, including photo and video footage, in hopes of identifying a possible male suspect and vehicle investigators have connected to the three killings, Moore said.
“We are asking everyone to encourage people experience homelessness, especially those who are alone, to seek shelter and to seek opportunities to come in from the streets,” Moore said.
In a community alert, police urged the city’s unhoused individuals to avoid isolated areas, especially at night; have a working cell phone; and record and report any suspicious activity to police.
“We don’t know what the motive is of this except we know that the targeting is three individuals sleeping alone,” said Moore.
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