San Diego's mayor and police chief are urging the public to help homicide investigators find a man, seen on store surveillance video, who they believe is responsible for terrorizing the city's homeless community with four brutal attacks in four days.
“These evil acts of violence are some of the worst I’ve seen in my 34 years in law enforcement,” San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.
The most recent attack occurred Wednesday, when a 23-year-old man was attacked while sleeping in a highly populated area of downtown San Diego. SDPD officials said the victim was hospitalized and is in grave condition. They have not identified the man because they are in the process of contacting his family.
No motive has been assigned to the attacks, described as "senseless."
Homicide investigator Capt. David Nisleit said there was nothing connecting Wednesday's victim to three other men who were either beaten or killed.
SDPD officers have been distributing images taken from a Bay Park store that police believe show the alleged killer.
"The methodology used in these crimes leads us to believe they’re being committed by the same person," Nisleit said.
On Sunday Angelo De Nardo, 53, was found killed and set on fire along Morena Boulevard, east of Interstate 5, homicide investigators said.
Shawn Longley, 41, was found by police Monday morning on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach. He had suffered blunt force trauma to his upper body and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Manuel Mason, 61, was attacked about an hour earlier on Monday in San Diego's Midway District. He was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. San Diego Police identified him along with the other victims in the series during a Wednesday news conference.
Then, at 5:10 a.m. Wednesday, an SDPD officer found a fourth man suffering "significant injuries" to his upper torso at State and West E Streets, near condos and the federal courthouse.
Police said the suspect was last seen running north from the area.
Homicide investigators want to question a man spotted on store surveillance video near the Morena Boulevard scene. The man purchased a gas can, a gallon of gasoline and a lighter about 15 minutes before De Nardo's body was discovered.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said that SDPD is "working around the clock" to find the suspect and asked the public to contact authorities with any information. He said SDPD was also engaging in extensive outreach to the homeless to keep them safe.
NBC 7 tracked down the store clerk who sold a man fire supplies just 15 minutes before a fire was reported to police.
The clerk, who wished only to be identified as Elliott, said he is haunted by the encounter.
“If I knew what was going to happen, I would, like, examine him, but he was just another customer,” Elliott told NBC 7 in an exclusive interview.
Images: Person Sought for Questioning in Homeless Attacks
Homicide investigators warned the public not to approach the suspect but to call 911.
Anyone with information can call the San Diego Police Department's Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.