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Suspect In San Diego Homeless Attacks Called 'Extremely Dangerous'

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

The man wanted in four assaults this week remains at large

Surveillance video of person of interest

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.

Homeless Man Attacked Downtown; Police Link To 3 Other Assaults
Attack On Homeless Man In Downtown San Diego Connected To Three Previous Assaults GUEST:Todd Gloria, councilman, San Diego

The homeless and parts of San Diego and living in fear as they are being attacked. Military vets are being deported this is justifiable? This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Allison St. John and for Maureen Cavanaugh it is Wednesday, July 6. Another homeless man is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries today. Police say he was attacked near the intersection of State Street and Broadway early this morning. He is the fourth in a series of attacks that has left two homeless men dead and another seriously injured. City Councilman Todd Gloria represents downtown San Diego and he joins me now. We were planning on talking about homeless but we were not planning on talking about homeless been killed but we have to tackle this subject. What is the latest that you know about the investigation into these attacks? These are horrible attacks on this morning's is the fourth. Three over the weekend the fourth early this morning. All signs point to it is related to the previous three and it's troubling when I listen to or observed the media that there were similar ones a few weeks ago. In the early morning hours on Tuesday and a series of attacks around the same times in the beach and Bay communities against homeless people. Obviously while these murders and significant assaults are a big deal and we need the public's health -- help to identify the individuals and bring them to justice. We spoke yesterday to Bob McElroy works with the San Diego homeless. He said the city needs to do more. If we don't do something Comprehensive Care it is just going to get worse. That is the way it feels. Like you said two weeks ago and again now. What you have to say to Bob McElroy and homeless? Anterior listeners. I spoke this morning with the chief and this is the apartments top priority at this moment of time. I think that Bob is talking about and it is on point is the broader issue of homelessness as a whole. Over the last 72 hours this is reprehensible regardless of the individual. Bob and the folks at the alpha project and countries that are as wealthy and less wealthy than us don't work this way. I am of the opinion that this is a choice. This is an it -- a choice to house them or not house and. I'm hoping that folks will wake up and do something about the problem. The mayor has not said anything about this. It looks like a serial killer is out there. One of the mayor be out in speaking about this if it was just regular people? I cannot speak about the mayor under the chief is deeply involved. I spoke with her early this morning and she was in a meeting about this and working on it. If you saw some of the coverage this morning there were a whole lot of officers after. The information that I was given over the weekend I think the police department has taken is incredibly seriously. When you are speaking about the most vulnerable and least powerful in our community howdy respond to this? I think there are enough resources brought to bear. We have surveillance fitted -- footage of a person of interest. Have surveillance images and what we need to do is go to the website social media account and help us identify this individual and get them off the street. The mayor has put up a statement. You raise an interesting point. The -- on my time in the city Council this has been personally important to me. We have expanded the number of beds available we went to the winter tent system which was just tents for a couple weeks in the wintertime and now we have every year-round facility with 300 50 beds. The list goes on and on -- 350 beds. The list goes on and on. Some of those beds the unused each night. That is often because folks prefer to stay on the street not necessarily by twice. We're talking about oftentimes mentally ill pit -- people. It raises issues about why we will not go indoors. It raises an interesting question whether this crime spree will bring more people under the roof and use some of those beds. There are conditions attached to accepting a bit. At a time like this perhaps some of those conditions can be waived. That is part of the city's policy now. When I was mayor and to this day our preferred policy approach is called housing first. It's kind of take it as you are. Sometimes people raise issues where they don't like rules in general and not necessarily about substance abuse issues are just being in at a certain hour or they worry about their pets or stay with the partners. Those kinds of barriers continue to be there. We encourage those who receive city funding to lower those barriers as much as possible and receive a coordinated approach to make the policy more efficient. We do not have enough resources to deal with the problem of the size. We have the fourth-largest home -- homeless population in the state. Met to make better use of our interesting -- of our resources. A lot of attention has been paid to the homeless problem in San Diego preparing for the All-Star game and comic on. Do you have any regrets of the way the city is handling the homeless? I'm proud of what we are doing in terms of adopting a housing first reproach -- approach. We are making some real systematic changes. This is very much a work in progress. You ask about the city. The rocks were placed under the bridge to prevent homeless from camping out there. I have certainly made my feelings clear about that. It is wrong it is not what we ought to be doing. That was $56,000 that we could of used to house five or six people for a year. It sends the wrong message and maybe it's a message that has been picked up by others that we should disrespect some of the poorest and most vulnerable among us. That being said he also look at the housing first approach additional beds that we are creating an approach as we are taking. I think the city is doing a good job. If I may push back slightly I get cold in here and when the wintertime on holidays and people have an interest in the homeless and. I'm getting cold in two places because of the All-Star game. We have to have a concern about the homeless 365 days a year. This was Todd Gloria wiki so much for coming up.

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

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.
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.

Corrected: June 30, 2022 at 5:52 PM PDT
City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.