Friend: Calif. homeless killings suspect serious, 'down' after return from Iraq

Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, is accused of killing four homeless men, police say.

Story highlights

  • A friend says "something happened" to Itzcoatl Ocampo after a military tour
  • He says the once fun-loving man became preoccupied and "depressed"
  • The suspect's father tells a paper that his son, himself, was homeless
  • The son is accused of killing four homeless men in Southern California
A friend said Monday that "something happened" to the man police accused of killing four homeless people in California, after he came back from serving in the U.S. military in Iraq.
"He was a little bit more serious, it seemed like there was something on his mind," Brian, who lived a few doors down from Itzcoatl Ocampo and asked to be identified only by his first name, told CNN. "He seemed really depressed and down, and things in his life weren't looking that well."
The 23-year-old Ocampo was arrested Friday night after he allegedly stabbed a transient to death in Orange County, Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said Sunday.
The suspect has not been arraigned in relation to that or the three other killings, and police have not detailed evidence behind their accusation.
His father, Refugio Ocampo, who lost his home in 2008 and now lives in the cab of a semi-trailer parked in Fullerton, California, said it was hard to believe his son could be involved in the killings.
"I saw him so many times giving the last money he had in his pocket ... to the homeless, to the people that (are) asking for some help. ... My son's always been a role model," Ocampo said in a video interview posted on the Orange County Register's website.
Ocampo, 50, told the Register that his son, worried about his father's safety, had recently pointed out an FBI warning about homeless men being killed in the area.
Refugio Ocampo said his son was a Marine in Iraq, and returned a changed man. He started talking about things that "didn't make any sense," like the end of the world. U.S. military officials didn't immediately respond Monday to CNN requests for information about Itzcoatl Ocampo's military service.
"They killed the person he was," he told the Orange County Register. "And that's the only possibility I can think of that he would do something like that."
Brian, the neighbor, described Itzcoatl Ocampo as a "fun, ... ordinary kid" when they grew up together in southern California, adding "he was really looking forward to the service" after graduating from high school.
"When you were around him, you had fun," the suspect's high school classmate said.
But like Ocampo's father, Brian said he noticed some recent changes in the young man, including when the two met up a few times last summer.
"I knew he wanted to see (combat) action, and I knew he enjoyed it," said Brian, noting he'd lent his friend a self-help book. "Then something happened, and I just don't know what."
Brian added that he had a hard time reckoning that his friend possibly could be responsible for the killings.
"I would never have guessed this," he said.
Ocampo, 50, told the Register that his son, worried about his father's safety, had recently pointed out an FBI warning about homeless men being killed in the area.
Refugio Ocampo said his son was a Marine in Iraq, and returned a changed man. He started talking about things that "didn't make any sense," like the end of the world. U.S. military officials didn't immediately respond Monday to CNN requests for information about Itzcoatl Ocampo's military service.
"They killed the person he was," he told the Orange County Register. "And that's the only possibility I can think of that he would do something like that."
Brian, the neighbor, described Itzcoatl Ocampo as a "fun, ... ordinary kid" when they grew up together in southern California, adding "he was really looking forward to the service" after graduating from high school.
"When you were around him, you had fun," the suspect's high school classmate said.
But like Ocampo's father, Brian said he noticed some recent changes in the young man, including when the two met up a few times last summer.
"I knew he wanted to see (combat) action, and I knew he enjoyed it," said Brian, noting he'd lent his friend a self-help book. "Then something happened, and I just don't know what."
Brian added that he had a hard time reckoning that his friend possibly could be responsible for the killings.
"I would never have guessed this," he said.