A man who police said may be responsible for stalking, abducting and raping as many as seven women as his victims walked along Ventura Boulevard during the past month has been arrested, authorities said Saturday.
Police said Howard August Davis, 29, was taken into custody at 7:30 p.m. Friday near Ventura Boulevard and Sale Avenue in Woodland Hills. Police said the man's truck--a light-colored pickup--matched the description of the vehicle used in a series of assaults that have plagued the area since the end of April.
Deputy Chief Martin Pomeroy, who commands Los Angeles Police Department operations in the San Fernando Valley, said authorities have not been able to identify a clear pattern in the Valley assaults and therefore are unsure if the suspect is responsible for all seven crimes.
"We're fairly positive he's good for at least one crime and we believe he may be good for as many as six others," Pomeroy said Saturday. "It may prove to be a very significant arrest if we can tie in all these crimes.
"If it's even a single rape that this guy is charged with, it is still a significant arrest because rape is a terrible crime."
Pomeroy declined to elaborate on the details of the case. The investigation is being coordinated downtown by the Police Department's Robbery Homicide Division.
Some Ventura Boulevard merchants whose businesses are near the site of the arrest said police circulated information about a series of attacks on women at the end of April. Shai Harary, the manager at The Print Shop in the 22000 block of Ventura Boulevard, said police dropped off a flyer with a composite picture and description of a man's attacks. "(It said) he would attack people between the afternoon hours, women that were walking on Ventura Boulevard in the western areas of the Valley," Harary said.
Stung by criticism of his department last winter, when Valley residents complained that authorities did not alert them to a series of attacks on children until news reports detailed the incidents, Pomeroy said the flyers are proof the police were trying to warn the public about the latest attacks.
"It is sometimes difficult to make a judgment between releasing information too soon when not all the facts are known and yet fully informing the public as soon as we are certain of our facts," Pomeroy said. "In this particular case, we did not have--nor do we now have--sufficient information to believe that the individual we have in custody is a serial rapist."
Some business people in the area said they wished they had been informed earlier.
Laurie Hickerson, a manager at La Frite, which is also near Sale Avenue and Ventura Boulevard, said there are about 20 women who come alone to the restaurant on the way from work or going to their jobs.
"Of course they haven't told us anything about it," she said. "It seems like if you knew about it you could take added precautions like asking for escorts and keeping an eye out for suspicious-looking people."