Correction: Ramon Escobar faces five attempted murder charges. An earlier version of the story incorrectly reported the total.
A previously deported felon described by police as a “violent predator” has been arrested and charged in the killings of three men and the attempted killings of five others in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California.
Ramon Alberto Escobar, 47, was arrested Monday in Santa Monica following an early morning attack there.
“We have connected Ramon Escobar to seven attacks in the two cities,” Los Angeles Police Department Capt. William Hayes said Tuesday during a news conference. “In three of those assaults – two in Los Angeles and one in Santa Monica – the victims died as a result of injuries sustained during the violent attacks by Ramon Escobar.”
Of Escobar’s surviving alleged victims, one is on life support, two are in comas and one has been treated and released from the hospital, Hayes said. The condition of the fifth surviving victim wasn’t immediately known.
Escobar is also a person of interest in an investigation into the late August disappearance of two relatives with whom he had been living in Houston, Hayes said. Escobar fled to California from Texas in early September, after being questioned by authorities in Houston, CNN affiliate KTLA reported.
Escobar, who was also charged with four counts of second-degree robbery, was being held without bail. His arraignment was continued to November 8, according to Greg Risling, a spokesman for the LA County District Attorney’s Office.
“He also faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a robbery, making him eligible for the death penalty,” the district attorney’s office said in a news release.
Escobar was deported to El Salvador six times between 1997 and 2011, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
He was released from ICE custody last year after appealing his most recent immigration case, the ICE statement said.
Escobar has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal reentry, the agency said.
ICE has filed a detainer against Escobar indicating the agency wishes to take Escobar into custody for immigration removal proceedings whenever he is released, it said.
Baseball bat, bolt cutters recovered
Escobar was arrested Monday at the scene of an attack in Santa Monica after a uniformed police services officer recognized him as matching the description of a man wanted for previous assaults, Hayes said.
Police say they recovered a pair of bolt cutters and a wooden baseball bat believed to have been used as weapons in the attacks, Hayes said.
Attacks on three homeless men in downtown Los Angeles happened September 16. Two of those men died and the other is still hospitalized in critical condition, he said.
The victims of those attacks had been sleeping on the sidewalk in the city’s downtown, Hayes said.
’Crime of opportunity’
The Santa Monica attacks took place on September 8, 10, 20 and 24, Capt. Wendell Shirley of the Santa Monica Police Department told reporters. In each case, the victims had been sleeping on the beach when they were assaulted, he said.
“(Escobar) is a violent predator. He’s preying on innocent people in particular. Most of these cases are victims, are people who were asleep when he went up and did it,” Hayes told reporters.
While most of Escobar’s alleged victims were homeless, Hayes said investigators do not believe they were targeted for that reason. Escobar also appears to have been homeless, he said.
“It does not appear that it was directed at any specific group, I think it was a crime of opportunity,” Hayes said. “It appears that the motive in most of these cases was robbery.”