Los Angeles and Santa Monica police are investigating at least three stabbings of homeless people as they slept and where typed and signed “death warrants” were left at the scene, according to several law enforcement sources.
The victims, two men and a woman in their 50s, survived the attacks.
The first incident was reported July 4 when a 56-year-old homeless man was found bleeding with a large “hunting-type” knife protruding from his back near the intersection of 3rd and Main streets in Santa Monica, according to the sources. The man crawled 100 yards looking for help while the weapon was lodged between his shoulder blades.
Police said a “death warrant” had been typed and signed by the attacker and left behind, but did not elaborate on the exact contents of the note.
On Tuesday, another homeless man was stabbed in a similar manner as he slept on a Santa Monica bus bench near the Third Street Promenade. Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis confirmed that a similar note was found by detectives but did not give details.
On Thursday, a 54-year-old homeless woman was stabbed in the back as she slept near the intersection of La Brea and De Longpre avenues, blocks away from Hollywood High School. Police recovered a black kitchen knife and another “warrant,” also signed by the suspect.
Authorities said they are looking for a suspect in the case, a man they identified as David Ben Keyes, who has been missing for weeks from the Santa Barbara area.
The homeless stabbings are the latest in a string of similar attacks in the region. Five homeless men have been fatally stabbed in Orange County, a run of violence that police blamed on an ex-Marine who they said aspired to kill as many as 16 people.
Itzcoatl Ocampo, an Iraq War veteran, told authorities that he targeted the homeless because “they were available and vulnerable,” and that he believed he was performing a public service because their presence was a “blight” on the community, according to a grand jury transcript. “He did say that he felt it had to be done,” a police detective said. Ocampo told police he joined the Marines in 2006 with the hope of learning to kill and that once he returned he began plotting out a killing spree, according to court documents.
Ocampo has been charged with seven counts of murder, which include the slaying of two family friends prior to the string of homeless deaths. The Orange County District Attorney’s office had indicated it will seek the death penalty. The case has not gone to trial and Ocampo remains jailed, held without bail.