A man arrested in connection with the fatal beatings of two homeless men and scores of other attacks in the Santa Monica and downtown LA areas while men slept in public was considered a person of interest in the disappearance of two Houston relatives, Los Angeles police announced Tuesday.
Ramon Escobar, 47, was arrested in connection with the beatings of three homeless men, two of whom died, in the downtown area, and another man in Santa Monica.
He was considered a person of interest in the disappearance of Rogelio Escobar and Dina Escobar, the LA and Santa Monica Police departments said in a joint news conference.
Both went missing late last month and foul play is suspected in their disappearances, police said.
The attacks and killings appear to be "crimes of opportunity," and motivated by robbery, as Escobar appears to be homeless himself, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Billy Hayes said Thursday.
Escobar was arrested around 7 a.m. Monday by Santa Monica police officers investigating the beating of a man in the 1500 block of Seventh Street. The victim had suffered head injuries "consistent with blunt force trauma'' and he was taken to a hospital in unknown condition.
Santa Monica police then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, which later linked Escobar to the Sept. 16 baseball-bat beatings of three homeless men in downtown Los Angeles. Police on Monday confirmed that Escobar was being held without bail on suspicion of murder. Authorities declined to discuss the case further, instead scheduling a Tuesday afternoon news conference to discuss the case.
The trio of downtown Los Angeles attacks occurred between 4 and 5 a.m. on Sept. 16, and the LAPD later released surveillance video of a man suspected in those beatings, which investigators said were carried out with a baseball bat. Investigators noted that the suspect walked with a distinctively bow-legged gait.
The first attack targeting Kelvin Williams, 59, was at the northwest corner of Fifth and Flower streets, while the second and third happened on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, just east of Flower Street, LAPD Capt. William Hayes said.
The second man attacked was Brandon Ridout, 24, who also succumbed to his injuries. Tievon Harmon, 24, remained in critical condition Tuesday.
All three victims were attacked while they slept, and the suspect went through their belongings before leaving the scene, Hayes said. Police confirmed last week that two of the victims had died while the third was critically injured.
At about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, 39-year-old Steven Cruze Jr. of San Gabriel was found fatally beaten beneath the Santa Monica Pier. Police have not yet determined if Escobar is linked to that attack.
Although Cruze was initially described by authorities as homeless, his family said that was not the case.
His father, Steven Cruze Sr., told reporters his son sometimes slept under the pier before going to work.
"He had a membership with a gym so could get up in the morning, go take a shower and go to work,'' the elder Cruz said. "He knows so many people on this pier, he felt safe.''
Police revealed a timeline of Escobar's movements from Houston to the LA area during the attacks:
Aug., 26 and 28: Two relatives, Rogelio Escobar and Dina Escobar, disappear in Houston. The suspect lived with them, police said.
Aug. 30: Police interview Escobar. He flees shortly thereafter, taking Interstate 10 to the Los Angeles area.
Sept. 5: Escobar arrives in LA in a 2004 black Honda CRV.
Sept. 8: Man sleeping on the beach in Santa Monica attacked. He was hospitalized and released.
Sept. 10: Man in Santa Monica sleeping on the beach attacked; he has since been in a coma.
Sept. 16: Two early morning attacks on homeless men in downtown LA. One man was attacked in the 700 block of Wilshire Boulevard. Another was attacked on Fifth Street between Flower Street and Figueroa. Both men later died.
Sept. 17: Detectives released security video of the suspect.
Sept. 20: Steven Ray Cruze Jr. was discovered beaten to death beneath the Santa Monica Pier. His injuries were similar to the other Santa Monica attacks, police said.
Sept. 24: Early in the morning, a man was attacked in the area of 7th and Broadway.
Escobar's car and belongings were being pored over for forensic evidence, police said.
Houston authorities were working with LA police regarding the disappearances of Escobar's relatives. He was being held without bail.
Police were to present four murder cases and three attempted murder cases to the Los Angeles District Attorney for consideration.