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After weeks of terror, San Diego homeless are relieved a suspect is in custody

Alex, 61, and Joshua Jones, 22, both homeless in San Diego, sit outside God's Extended Hand soup kitchen on Saturday.
Alex, 61, and Joshua Jones, 22, both homeless in San Diego, sit outside God’s Extended Hand soup kitchen on Saturday.
(Pauline Repard / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Herman Quillion, an out-of-work welder from Georgia, wasn’t worried about a serial killer striking homeless men in San Diego “until it was time to lay down to sleep.”

“I was sleeping with a bat,” said Quillion, 41, who made his way to San Diego two months ago in hopes of finding work. “Sometimes I couldn’t sleep, when I first heard about it.”

His was a familiar story of homeless men, several of whom on Saturday expressed relief that a suspect was in custody.

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Homicide investigators on Friday arrested Jon David Guerrero, 39, of San Diego, saying he is the man behind the attacks.

Kenneth Moyd, 62, resting on a trolley station bench, said the arrest meant “one less thing to worry about” on San Diego’s streets, where he has lived since 1980.

One man stopped rummaging in trash cans at C Street and Fifth Avenue long enough to acknowledge he’d been using “the buddy system” for safer sleeping. “My hat’s off to SDPD for catching him,” he said before moving on.

Joshua Jones, 22, spent three months traveling to San Diego from Maine, arriving about the time the killings started. He and six to 10 other homeless individuals have been bedding down near one another in a parking lot, with the business owner’s permission.

“I’m really glad he got caught,” he said.

He and scores of other homeless across the city were aware that a man was creeping up on people, some while they slept outdoors, and inflicting major wounds on them with some type of weapon that police won’t describe. Three of the five victims died.

The attacks started July 3, when a man was killed and his body burned in Bay Park. The next day a man was killed in Ocean Beach and another man critically injured in the Midway District. A fourth man was attacked in downtown San Diego on July 6 and died three days later. The last attack, in Golden Hill on Friday, was on a man who survived. Guerrero was caught about an hour later. Police said there is clear evidence linking him to the crimes.

Guerrero’s father, Jose Guerrero, reached by telephone at his home on Saturday, took issue with the police view.

“I think he’s innocent,” he said of his son, adding that his lawyer has advised him to not talk about the case. “I don’t want to make things worse. I think he’ll be released soon. Last night there was another killing, and my son was in jail.”

A man was found dead about 10 a.m. Friday, not at night, along Kettner Boulevard. Homicide investigators called the death suspicious but have not said why, nor have they identified the man.

Christopher Middleton, 33, who has been sleeping in a tent on an East Village sidewalk for a few weeks, said his girlfriend told him about the killer.

“I thought, that’s nice, now I have to worry about some crazy guy. I’ve never been in a city that has a mass murderer. You don’t hear about that stuff in Pennsylvania — especially not in Erie,” Middleton said of his hometown, where he once worked as a mechanic.

Nearby, a 43-year-old man who identified himself only as Robert, an accountant from Phoenix who is hoping for work in San Diego, said he arrived in town a few days before the first attack.

“For the first two or three nights, I was really worried about that,” he said. “Anytime anyone went by me, I’d sit bolt upright. After a few weeks — it’s weird —you get used to it.”’

pauline.repard@sduniontribune.com

Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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