The twisted path of Jerrid Powell, from jock to accused L.A. serial killer

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)

In the days after Thanksgiving, authorities say, Jerrid Joseph Powell was cruising around Los Angeles in a $60,000 BMW shooting homeless people, striking three times in a four-day span.

The first to die was 37-year-old Jose Bolanos, who was sleeping on a couch in an alley in Vermont Vista around 3 a.m. Nov. 26. Twenty-four hours later, 62-year-old Mark Diggs was shot as he pushed a shopping cart in the Arts District. Then on Nov. 29, 52-year-old Shawn Alvarez was gunned down in Lincoln Heights.

Powell, 33, was taken into custody after a traffic stop in Beverly Hills the same day Alvarez was killed. His car was linked to a follow-home robbery on Nov. 26 in which Nicholas Simbolon, an employee of the Los Angeles County chief executive’s office, was shot and killed after pulling into the garage of his San Dimas home.

But more than a week later, much remains wrapped in mystery, including a motive in the slayings.

A review of Powell's life highlights contradictions. A popular athlete in high school who later held down a job helping at-risk youths. Someone with a lengthy criminal record — mostly low-level infractions, though he also was convicted of a stabbing in San Bernardino. And a man who received a $700,000 settlement from the city of Santa Monica in a lawsuit he filed in April 2020.

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

Kelly Bayne said when she and Powell began dating in 2013, there was nothing amiss in his behavior.

The two had gone to high school together in San Bernardino and reconnected years later. He was the consummate boyfriend, Bayne said, kind and respectful. She even introduced him to her family, which was rare for her.

"He didn't have any red flags," Bayne said in a phone interview with The Times. "He was doing everything a good boyfriend does."

She said that during their relationship he worked in Compton helping at-risk youths. According to Transparent California, a public salary database, Powell worked as a gang interventionist. But it is unclear exactly what he did, and city officials could not provide additional information.

Bayne said their connection to helping those in need brought them closer together.

But in April 2016, weeks before they were to move into an apartment in San Bernardino, Bayne said, Powell assaulted her in the streets near Yorba Linda.

The Anaheim Police Department said Powell was arrested and booked on suspicion of domestic violence after officers responded to a call at Imperial Highway and Santa Ana Canyon Road, just off the 91 Freeway in Anaheim Hills.

"It was a total 180," she said.

Bayne said Powell apologized profusely. She declined to press charges because he had never harmed her before and she was pregnant with their child and didn't want to send him to jail.

The following month, the two moved in together. It seemed to Bayne that things were moving in the right direction again.

"He was happy and couldn't wait to be a dad," she said. "He even asked my dad for my hand in marriage."

But days after the proposal, she said, his demeanor changed; he acted erratically and sometimes violently. She said he became a heavy drinker and smoked marijuana.

Eventually, she said, he began physically abusing her again. The last straw for Bayne came in June. She said Powell became convinced she was cheating on him. Bayne was about two months pregnant and, she said, Powell punched her dozens of times, including in the stomach, causing her to miscarry. She said Powell threatened her if she told anyone about the abuse.

"It was part of his fear tactic," she said. "He'd say: 'If you go to your family or to the police, I'll get off. My mom is affiliated with law enforcement, and I'll get off and I'll kill you and your family.'"

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

Public records show that his mother was a security officer for the city of Palmdale at the time. When contacted by The Times, she declined to comment.

After Bayne's miscarriage, she said, she ended the relationship and moved out. She said she reported the June assault to the San Bernardino County Sherriff's Department and the county district attorney's office, but no charges were filed. Court documents show she filed for a restraining order from Powell in August.

Powell's legal run-ins didn't end there. He's been a defendant in several criminal cases and a plaintiff in a number of lawsuits.

Powell sued a property manager in 2020 after he moved out of an apartment building. He alleged that the manager had sexually harassed him and that he suffered emotional distress at the West L.A. building. He asked for $3.75 million.

"He was always nervous. He was always on the alarm. He was always trying to find the issue everywhere," said the property manager, who requested anonymity to discuss the legal matter. He added that Powell owed thousands of dollars in rent when he left. "I was never trying to escalate the situation."

The manager said that when he spoke to Powell on the phone while the case was still pending, Powell admitted that he filed lawsuits to make money.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2022, court records show.

In 2020, Powell also sued the city of Santa Monica, alleging that a beach patrol officer ran him over while he was lying on the sand early one morning in 2019.

In June, the city agreed to pay Powell $700,000 to settle the case.

Even with that windfall, however, Powell had debts. He owed $29,526.67 in medical bills that he had failed to pay to Museum Center Surgery Group Inc. even though he said in a contract he would save money from legal settlements to pay off the debt, according to the civil complaint the company filed against Powell in May.

The Los Angles Police Department reached out to other agencies in the region to see whether Powell might have been connected to other killings.

"We are not aware of any additional cases related to this suspect other than the four discussed at the press conference," LAPD Capt. Kelly Muniz said.

The four cases continue to confound police as they scour Powell's life in an effort to piece together the killings of the three homeless men and the death of Simbolon, a seemingly unrelated act of violence.

"We're looking into every aspect of his life to try and figure [the motive] out. At this point, it is a mystery," LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division Capt. Scot Williams said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.