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Suspect In San Diego Homeless Attacks Called ‘Extremely Dangerous’

The man wanted in four assaults this week remains at large

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m. July 7, 2016

San Diego police said at a Thursday morning news briefing that authorities were following up on leads as they continue to search for an unidentified assailant responsible for a fiery four-day crime spree that has left two homeless men dead and two others severely injured.

Detectives were working to identify a man believed to be responsible for all four crimes, who was seen in surveillance video taken at a convenience store near where the first victim was found Sunday morning.

Police Capt. David Nisleit said the "very violent person" may be using public transportation and urged riders to keep an eye out.

In the video footage, the dark-haired suspect, who appears to be in his 20s or 30s, is carrying a backpack and wearing dark gloves, light-colored pants, a brown long-sleeve shirt or jacket over a dark undershirt and a green short-billed Greek fisherman-style cap. However, Nisleit said he may have changed his clothing or appearance.

Original post:

The man San Diego police have been calling a "person of interest" in four attacks this week on homeless men is now being described as the prime suspect, authorities said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Police are not calling the suspect a serial killer, but Capt. David Nisleit said he's "extremely dangerous." He said he believes the man is responsible for all four attacks, two of which were fatal.

Photo credit: San Diego Police Department

A photo of the suspect San Diego police say is responsible for attacks on four homeless men, two of which were fatal.

Attack On Homeless Man In Downtown San Diego Connected To Three Previous Assaults

GUEST:

Todd Gloria, councilman, San Diego

Transcript

San Diego Homicides in 2016

San Diego has a low homicide rate compared to the 10 largest U.S. cities. The city had 37 homicides in 2015, according to ARJIS. For the first six months of 2015, 17 homicides were recorded in the city, compared to 21 for the same period this year.

January: 3

February: 0

March: 2

April: 6

May: 5

June: 5

July: 3*

Total: 24

*As of July 6

Source: San Diego police, ARJIS

Photo by Associated Press

San Diego homicide Capt. David Nisleit talks about the search for a man believed responsible for two murders and two assaults of homeless citizens, July 6, 2016.

He told the public to not approach the suspect if they think they see him. They should call 911.

The announcement came after the suspect set a homeless man on fire near Horton Plaza Wednesday morning. It was the fourth attack in a four-day spree of violence that has left two other homeless men dead and a third severely injured.

Witnesses to Wednesday’s incident saw someone crouched over what they initially thought was a flaming pile of clothing in the area of Broadway and State Street shortly after 5 a.m., Nisleit said.

Realizing that it actually was a person on fire, one of the bystanders hurried over and pulled a burning towel off the man, he said. The victim was hospitalized with critical injuries.

Police said the 23-year-old man had been identified, but his name was not being released until family is notified.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman were at Wednesday’s news conference and said all possible resources are being used to find the assailant.

"It’s no doubt our city has been shaken by these gruesome attacks," Faulconer said.

“These evil acts of violence are the worst I’ve seen in my 34 years in law enforcement,” Zimmerman said. "This killer has targeted some of our city's most vulnerable citizens while they are asleep."

Nisleit said the method of the attack leaves "no doubt in our minds" that the same person is responsible for all four attacks.

"It's really hard to say what our suspect's motive is. All I can say is these are senseless attacks," Nisleit said.

The body of the first victim, 53-year-old Angelo De Nardo of San Diego, was found in flames in an open area off Morena Boulevard near Clairemont Drive shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday. Police said witnesses told investigators they saw a man running across nearby Interstate 5, carrying a gas can.

An autopsy determined that De Nardo had been killed before being set ablaze, police Lt. Manny Del Toro said Tuesday. The cause of death was not released.

A second homeless man was found bleeding from stab wounds to his upper body on Greenwood Street, near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway District, shortly before 5 a.m. Monday. Manuel Mason, 61, was hospitalized in critical condition.

Mason is expected to survive, Nisleit said.

A third man, Shawn Longley, 41, was found dead about 6:10 a.m. on Monday at the Robb Athletic Field in Ocean Beach — about three miles from the scene of the second attack, police said.

"We have a person out there attacking victims that were sleeping. They weren't doing anything wrong," Nisleit said.

Surveillance cameras at a convenience store near where the first victim was found captured grainy images of the suspect.

Faulconer said that police are doing extensive public outreach to let people on the streets know about the attack and ask them to remain vigilant, avoid sleeping alone on the streets and to stay in open, well-lit areas.

“All resources are being brought to bear,” he said.

A $1,000 reward is being offered for anyone with information that leads to an arrest.

Anyone with additional information on the cases was asked to call police at (619) 531-2293. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477, or by contacting the agency via email at sdcrimestoppers.org.

Location of attacks

An unidentified assailant is suspected of attacking four homeless men over a four-day period. This map shows the location of those attacks (red markers) and the location of other attacks (blue markers) on homeless people this year, according to news reports. Created by Brooke Ruth/KPBS.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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