The international citizen patrol group Guardian Angels plans to walk the streets in Orange County three to four times a week to keep a vigilant watch for someone suspected of killing three homeless people there.
Armed with radios, video cameras and their military training, groups of three people will begin their patrols Monday near the Orangewood Avenue underpass of the Orange Freeway near the Santa Ana River Trail in Orange.
Guardian Angel organizer Dave Eagle says the group will conduct nightly patrols until the Orange County serial killer is caught.
“If we see you, we will pursue you,” Eagle said. “You are not getting away.”
Eagle says he hopes that the presence of Guardian Angels, clad in military-style battle dress uniforms and red berets, will prevent any more slayings of the homeless. Many of the Guardian Angels are military veterans with self-defense training, Eagle added.
“We figure if the killer’s watching, it'll be a deterrent for him,” Eagle said.
The Guardian Angels have been a visible presence in Southern California for years. During the recent New Year’s weekend when a serial arsonist torched cars and structures across Los Angeles, they were watching for suspicious activity. On Friday, they patrolled in Moreno Valley. That’s when they came up with the idea to go to Orange County look out for the homeless, Eagle said.
The group has intervened in incidents before to break up fights. They’ve detained people until police arrived. They’ve made citizen's arrests, Eagle said.
This will be the Guardian Angels' first foray into Orange County, Eagle said.
The group went out Sunday to an Orange County soup kitchen to learn about where the homeless go when the armories are full.
They plan on passing out whistles so homeless people can alert someone if they’re in danger. The volunteers will pass out fliers with safety tips.
The volunteer patrols come weeks after three homeless men were killed. Police feared the slayings may be the work of a serial killer and have set up a task force to find the person responsible for the stabbing deaths of James McGillivray, 53, Lloyd Middaugh, 42, and Paulus Cornelius Smit, 57.
McGillivray’s body was found Dec. 21 near a Placentia shopping mall. Middaugh was found on a riverbed trail in Anaheim a week later. Smit was found with fatal stab wounds outside a Yorba Linda library. The killings took place at night and the late afternoon.
A surveillance camera in Placentia captured images of the suspect, a thin man wearing a dark-hooded sweater, who may be driving a four-door Toyota.
Police said there was nothing to connect the cases other than that the victims were homeless.
Anaheim police Sgt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman for the homeless murders task force, made up of several Orange County police agencies and the FBI, said police welcome efforts by outreach groups to help the homeless. He said he hadn't yet heard that the Guardian Angels were coming to Orange County and added that task force officers would meet with organizers to learn more about their plans.
The Guardian Angels will be the latest group to hand out safety information and whistles. They join local charities who have handed out flashlights and whistles. The homeless have also been encouraged to seek shelter.