1 of 4 | The Los Angeles Police Department issued a photo of a suspect believed to be involved in a trio of shooting deaths targeting the homeless population during the last week of November. Photo courtesy LAPD
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Los Angeles authorities have warned of a possible serial killer targeting the homeless population in the wake of three recent slayings.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore on Friday urged residents with any information about the deaths to step forward.
"We are here today to ask for the public's assistance in identifying an individual that we believe is responsible for a series of three homicides involving three individuals who were experiencing homelessness," Moore told reporters at a press briefing.
He said homicide detectives now consider the trio of killings between Nov. 26 and 29 to be related.
A 37-year-old man was killed early in the morning of Nov. 26. A 62-year-old man was attacked the following morning, while a 52-year-old man was found shot and killed in the early morning hours of Nov. 29.
All three victims were sleeping alone in open areas and were approached by a lone suspect who produced a gun and shot them, police said Friday.
Authorities released a photo of a man and of a vehicle they believe to be involved in the three shooting deaths. Officials believe the same man and vehicle were seen at all three scenes.
Officials urged those who are currently experiencing homelessness not to sleep alone or find a way to get inside.
The City of Los Angeles has an estimated homeless population of 46,260 people, while that figure climbs to 75,518 in Los Angeles County, according to the 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.
"Our message to our unhoused community is clear -- try not to be alone tonight," Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement. "We will do all we can to make shelter and services available. To the many Angelenos who have friends or family who are unhoused, please let them know the danger that exists."
"Living on the streets we already know is dangerous. This is a killer who is preying on the unhoused," Bass added at Friday's news conference.
To that end, the city of Los Angeles also activated an extension to its winter shelter program in an effort to give unhoused individuals a safe place to go overnight.
Winter shelters operated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority exist across the county.
"We are horrified by these senseless acts of violence against people experiencing homelessness," LAHSA CEO Va Lecia Adams Kellum said in a statement to media outlets. "LAHSA, the homeless rehousing system, and our partners across the city and county of Los Angeles are working to help as many of our unsheltered neighbors as possible sleep safely by making additional resources available and focusing outreach efforts on vulnerable individuals."
Friday's news came the same day police in Las Vegas were dealing with a shooting that left one dead and four people injured. Police described all five victims as "unhoused" at the time.
No arrests had been as of Saturday morning but police believe all five victims were shot by the same person.