Man charged in killings of 3 homeless people and a suburban LA resident, prosecutors say

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prosecutors charged a man Monday with four counts of murder in the fatal shootings of three homeless men in Los Angeles and a suburban resident last month.

Jerrid Joseph Powell was also charged with one count of residential robbery and one count of being a felon with a firearm, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a statement. He also faces special circumstances of committing multiple murders, murder in the course of a robbery, as well as personal use of a firearm allegations, the statement said.

Powell, 33, appeared in court Monday afternoon with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Carlos Bido, but did not enter a plea. His arraignment was continued to Jan. 8.

“As with each client, our office will pursue a vigorous defense on behalf of Mr. Powell and hold the prosecution to its burden of proof. According to the tenets of our criminal legal system, Mr. Powell remains presumed innocent until proven otherwise," the public defender's office said in a statement.

Powell was initially arrested last week as a suspect in a deadly shooting during a robbery at a home in the community of San Dimas east of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles resident was then identified as a suspect in the killings of the three homeless men when a firearm found in his car was linked to those shootings, authorities said.

The motive for the killings of the homeless victims was not known, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said during a weekend press conference announcing the arrest.

Jose Bolanos, 37, was found dead with a gunshot wound around 3 a.m. on Nov. 26 in an alley in South Los Angeles, police said. The following day, Mark Diggs, 62, was shot and killed while pushing a shopping cart around 5 a.m. near downtown, according to officials.

The third shooting occurred Nov. 29 about 2:30 a.m. in the Lincoln Heights area, where the body of a 52-year-old man was found. Police did not immediately identify him pending notification of family.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Simbolon, 42, was shot dead at his home in San Dimas on the evening of Nov. 28. Authorities obtained surveillance images of a suspect vehicle, and the following night a license plate reader in Beverly Hills alerted police who made a traffic stop, resulting in Powell's arrest.

“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,” District Attorney George Gascón said in Monday's statement. “The swift actions of law enforcement undoubtedly saved lives this week.”

If convicted on all charges, Powell faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous, with about 10 million people, and was home to more than one in five of the nation’s homeless people, according to a 2022 federal tally. As of January, the last official count, more than 75,000 people were homeless across the county on any given night.

Advocates for homeless people say those living on the streets are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

Five homeless people were shot in Las Vegas on Friday, one of them fatally, and police were searching for a lone suspect, authorities said. Las Vegas police said in a news release Monday evening that they were aware of the shootings in Los Angeles and “ruled out any correlation.”

In Orange County, California, a man was charged with killing four homeless men in a series of stabbings from late 2011 to early 2012. Itzcoatl Ocampo, a former Marine, was charged with four counts of murder with special allegations of multiple murders, lying in wait and use of a deadly weapon in the killings. Ocampo died awaiting trial after reportedly eating cleanser he had collected slowly while in custody.