By Camila Bernal, Sarah Moon, Sara Smart, Cindy Von Quednow and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) — A Los Angeles man suspected of shooting to death three homeless men last week as they slept has been charged with murder for the killings of the men and another person at his home in San Dimas, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Monday.
Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, has been charged with four counts of murder, one count of residential robbery and one count of being a felon with a firearm. He also faces special circumstances including multiple murders and murder in the course of a robbery, according to the criminal complaint.
Powell was arrested last week in connection with the fatal shooting of the man in nearby San Dimas during a robbery. Investigators using surveillance technology then linked him to the killings that same week of the three men in Los Angeles, the city’s Police Chief Michel Moore has said.
Investigators recovered a gun authorities believe was used in the robbery, according to a Friday news release from police.
Powell appeared in court Monday afternoon in a yellow jail jumpsuit, but his arraignment, when he will be asked to enter a plea, was postponed until January 8. He was denied bail.
“As with every client, we are committed to presenting a vigorous defense for Mr. Powell and holding the prosecution to their burden of proof,” the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office said in a statement to CNN.
Authorities are searching for a motive
The killings targeted some of the city’s most vulnerable residents as police believe the suspect walked up to the men and shot them as they slept on sidewalks or in alleys – one near Skid Row – in Los Angeles, home to one of the nation’s largest homeless populations. The spree prompted the city to deploy hundreds of workers and partners late last week to warn unhoused residents a killer was still on the loose.
The first killing happened around 3 a.m. Sunday, November 26, in an alley; the second occurred the next day shortly before 5 a.m.; and a third person was killed Wednesday around 2:30 a.m. The victims were two Hispanic men, ages 37 and 52, and a 62-year-old Black man, according to police.
Investigators have yet to identify a motive.
Powell was arrested in the early hours of November 30 after the Beverly Hills Police Department conducted a vehicle stop and found he was driving a car connected to the killing Tuesday of Nicholas Simbolon, 42, in San Dimas, about 28 miles east of Los Angeles, police said. The Los Angeles police chief had earlier said Powell was arrested late Wednesday.
Powell is accused of following Simbolon to his home, robbing the father of two inside his garage and fatally shooting him, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Officials do not believe Powell had any prior connection to Simbolon.
The vehicle used by the suspect in Simbolon’s killing is believed to be the same used in the killings of the three men in Los Angeles, and a firearm found inside the car has been connected to the three shootings using ballistic evidence, police said.
Authorities said Powell’s arrest was possible due to Beverly Hills’ automatic vehicle license plate scanners, a form of sophisticated policing technology that civil liberties advocates such as the ACLU have long warned poses privacy concerns. But “if we did not enter that plate into the system, this individual that we believe is responsible for at least four murders may have been out there and reoffended,” Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna said in a news conference Saturday, acknowledging criticism of the technology.
As authorities were still searching Friday for a suspect, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ office deployed more than 400 people from city departments, housing service providers and other regional agencies to warn unhoused people of the threat.
The mayor urged residents not to sleep alone on the city’s streets: “Seek shelter, seek services, stay together, seek support.”
“This is a killer who is preying on the unhoused,” Bass warned.
People experiencing homelessness in the city already face dangerous conditions every day, she said, noting four to five unhoused people die each day due to a range of causes, including violence.
California spent $17.5 billion between 2018 and 2022 trying to alleviate homelessness. The efforts included moving more than 1,300 unsheltered Los Angeles residents from the streets to motels. But during that same four-year time frame, the state’s homeless population grew.
Still, “the problem would be so much worse, absent these interventions,” said Jason Elliott, senior adviser on homelessness to Gov. Gavin Newsom. “And that’s not what people want to hear. I get it, we get it.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
CNN’s Sarah Moon and Camila Bernal reported from court in Los Angeles. CNN’s Steve Almasy, Taylor Romine, Josh Campbell, Raja Razek and Nick Watt contributed to this report.
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