Following a recent string of killings targeting homeless individuals in Los Angeles, police have confirmed that a suspect has been identified. The accused, a 33-year-old, is said to fit the profile of the reported shooter and was already in police custody for another killing in a nearby suburb. All four murders occurred over four consecutive days.
The alarming slayings of these homeless individuals have led concerned officials to issue regional warnings to individuals living on the streets amid Los Angeles’ burgeoning homelessness crisis. On the lookout for a “serial killer” whose victims spanned a 12-mile stretch from South Los Angeles to the city’s northern downtown, authorities had described the suspect as a man seen driving a dark-colored sedan. To their surprise, they discovered the individual they were pursuing was already in custody.
Jerrid Joseph Powell, from Los Angeles, was apprehended during a traffic stop by Beverly Hills police. The handgun police believe was used in the killings was recovered from his vehicle, solidifying connections to the crimes. Powell is alleged to have killed three homeless men over four days, plus another individual in a nearby suburb during a home invasion. Police allege that the killings of the homeless were carried out with no motive.
As the investigations continue, District Attorney George Gascón announced that a dedicated task force will thoroughly review the case. Meanwhile, the accused is being held on a $2 million bond.
In response to the series of deadly attacks, the city’s Mayor has aimed to inform those in relevant areas. The homelessness crisis has left thousands of people in a hazardous condition, as they cannot afford stable housing. These acts of violence not only endanger unhoused individuals even further, but also draw attention to officials who have yet to create more affordable housing options.
This turn of events has only exasperated the already increasing number of homeless sweeps in Los Angeles. People living on the streets report that the threat of violence is a primary concern, particularly, in the case of transgender and nonbinary individuals.
Officials have urged everyone in need to take advantage of homeless shelters and to be mindful of their surroundings, noting the dangers of encounters with individuals with weapons and the risk of being hit by cars. These have only intensified as a result of the homeless sweeps, pushing unhoused individuals into more remote and dangerous areas.
These alarming slayings have drawn comparison to a growing number of murders across the country targeting unhoused individuals. Last month, a man recorded himself fatally shooting a homeless person who woke him up while sleeping on the street. This further demonstrates how laws and law enforcement tactics have failed to address the complex issues underlying our homelessness crisis.
Recently, Las Vegas also experienced an incident involving homeless individuals, with one individual killed and four others wounded in a shooting. Police are urging those with any information to come forward as they work on investigating the incident.
Currently, the unsheltered homeless population in cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas is continuously growing. The increase in violence is shedding more light on the increasing risk of living on the streets, highlighting the urgency of addressing the issue with practical and achievable policies.