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2 homeless men die after DTLA attacks; detectives probe link to body found under Santa Monica Pier

2 homeless men die after DTLA attacks; detectives probe link to body found under Santa Monica Pier
A man's body was discovered Thursday below the Santa Monica Pier, pictured in 2015. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Two of the homeless men who were brutally beaten in downtown Los Angeles earlier this week have died of their injuries, police said Thursday, and detectives are now investigating whether those attacks are linked to the death of a homeless man whose pummeled body was discovered under the Santa Monica Pier.

Both men had been hospitalized since Sunday morning, when an assailant repeatedly struck them with a baseball bat as they slept in the Financial District. Los Angeles police Officer Drake Madison said a third man beaten in Sunday’s attacks remained in the hospital.

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The victims’ identities are being withheld pending notification of their families, according to Sarah Ardalani, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

One of the men, who was in his 50s, died late Tuesday night, Ardalani said. The other, believed to be in his 20s, was pronounced dead on Thursday.

The case took a turn Thursday, when beach maintenance workers in Santa Monica discovered the body of a man under the pier about 6:40 a.m., according to a Santa Monica Police Department statement.

Lt. Saul Rodriguez, the department’s chief spokesman, said the man’s injuries were “consistent with being hit violently with some sort of blunt-type object.” Police had not determined what type of weapon was used in the attack or when it occurred.

On Friday, coroner’s officials identified the victim as Steven Ray Cruze Jr., 39, of San Gabriel.

Investigators believe Cruze was sleeping at the time of the attack. Rodriguez said detectives have been in touch with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery Homicide Division to explore links between the Santa Monica killing and the baseball bat attacks downtown.

The downtown attacks occurred between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday along Flower Street as the men were sleeping, police said. Detectives suspect the assailant — who is also believed to be homeless — was motivated by robbery because he rummaged through the victims’ pockets after clubbing them.

The LAPD has not responded to calls and e-mails seeking additional comment.

Surveillance video captured images of the presumed suspect in the Los Angeles attacks. Authorities described him as a white or Latino man in his 30s or 40s, of medium height and build, with dark black hair. He was last seen wearing a blue hat, gray sweatshirt, black shorts and bright white tennis shoes, police said.

Capt. Billy Hayes said the man walked with a “distinctive gait” and could be bowlegged.

In Santa Monica, Rodriguez said it was not clear whether the man found dead under the pier was also robbed.

There were no witnesses to any of the attacks.

Santa Monica police detectives were searching for surveillance footage in the area.

“Otherwise, we’re just needle in a haystack at this point,” Rodriguez said.

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3:15 p.m., Sept. 21, 2018: This article was updated with identifying information about some of the victims.

8:15 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with confirmation that the two homeless men in Sunday’s attacks had died.

This article was originally published at noon.

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