Authorities in San Diego on Tuesday sought to question a man in connection with the murders of two homeless men and the stabbing of a third over the Fourth of July weekend, which has sparked fears in the homeless community.
Police released convenience store surveillance video of the man – identified as a person of interest – wearing a baseball cap, jacket and a backpack. They describe him as 30 to 50 years old.
“When you look at all three cases, looking at the scene, talking to people, this person is definitely someone we want to talk to,” said San Diego police Capt. Dave Nisleit, who declined to comment on possible motives for the attacks.
According to police, one of the victims suffered extensive trauma to his upper torso and died before his body was set on fire. He was identified as Angelo De Nardo, 53, who had family in Pennsylvania. His badly burned body was found Sunday morning between Interstate 5 and some train tracks.
Police said the person of interest was seen running from the fire.
On Monday, police responded to a 911 call of a second man who suffered life-threatening injuries to his upper torso. Nisleit said Tuesday that doctors expected him to survive.
A few hours later, police discovered the second dead body, that of a man who bled from the upper torso.
Nisleit said De Nardo was the only body set on fire. The two other men weren’t identified.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that these cases are being conducted by the same person,” Nisleit said.
Some homeless men told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the recent attacks have put them on edge.
“It’s scary to think this could happen to me,” Chris Moton, 35, told the paper. Morton sleeps isolated from other homeless in the city.
The members of the transient community also told The Union-Tribune the recent strings of attacks forces them to keep at least one eye open while they sleep.
“We bound together for protection,” 49-year-old Anthony Jones said.
Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project, a group that serves the homeless, have offered the community some tips on how to stay safe.
“Our teams are making people aware, telling them to sleep in groups and keep an eye on each other,” McElroy said. “We’ve got a lot of free-rangers who sleep by themselves and that seems like a dangerous thing to do at this point.”
Since the attacks, police have been patrolling the transient areas and telling people about the attacks despite concerns that police wouldn’t lift a finger to find the person who had been committing the murders.
Authorities have urged residents to contact them at 619-531-2293 with information about the attacks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.