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Man arrested in killings of two Las Vegas homeless men

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Joshua Castellon, 26, of Las Vegas is in custody.
(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

Federal authorities have made an arrest in connection with the killings of two homeless men in Las Vegas and the shooting of two other people, authorities said Tuesday.

Joshua Castellon, 26, of Las Vegas was arrested Friday by a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and is being held on a weapons charge.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department issued a warrant against him Tuesday on two murder charges and two attempted murder charges. The federal weapons charge is related to the murder charges, police said.

“We’re relieved a dangerous person is off the streets,” Las Vegas Police Capt. Robert Plummer said.

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The killings on Jan. 29 and Feb. 2 sparked fears in the homeless community that a gunman was targeting the homeless, and authorities released surveillance video and held news conferences in an effort to capture the killer.

Las Vegas Police Lt. Dan McGrath said Castellon had been sleeping in his Hyundai Tucson sport utility vehicle but also stayed with family or friends at times after going through a breakup. He said the suspect didn’t have an extensive criminal history.

Two of the shooting victims are recovering from their wounds and are expected to survive, police said. A handgun that police believe was used in all four shootings had not been recovered. Police said they hoped to talk to anyone who knew Castellon and might be able to lead them to the weapon.

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McGrath said a patrol officer stopped Castellon on Feb. 8, and that an interview was conducted with the officer’s body camera turned on. McGrath said “everything began focusing on him” by Feb. 14. Castellon was brought into police headquarters for an interview on Friday before federal agents arrested him.

McGrath said tips from the public, investigative work by the FBI and ATF, and the release of surveillance video of the Hyundai all helped lead to his arrest. He said authorities believed Castellon posed “a significant public safety issue.”

Police said they didn’t know a motive for the killings.

One of the victims, 64-year-old James Lewis, was found shot to death under blankets early on Feb. 2. His daughter, Oneida Lewis-Baker, said she was relieved to find out a man had been arrested in the case.

“It doesn’t bring my dad back, but it helps to at least know who did it,” Lewis-Baker said. “I have a face and a name. I still don’t have an answer to why, but at least that person is behind bars.”

She said her father’s funeral is scheduled for Friday in Las Vegas.

The crimes and their apparent randomness had terrorized the homeless community in Las Vegas. Plummer, who called the assailant the “lowest of the low,” said this month the shooter was on his way to becoming a serial killer — though the number of slayings and their timing didn’t meet the FBI’s definition for that designation.

Outside the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, not far from where the killings took place, some homeless people said they were taking precautions by sleeping in public, well-lighted places or near other homeless people.

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Theresa Hicks, executive director of the service group Calvary Downtown Outreach, said she was gratified to hear about the arrest.

“They were sleeping uneasy at night,” Hicks said. “The danger is here every day, and the homeless know it. But to add to it someone stalking you and could shoot you in your sleep is very unnerving.”

Las Vegas has wrestled with its homeless problem. According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report, the city has the eighth-highest number of homeless people in the country — 6,490 in a one-night “point in time” count of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations taken in January of last year.

Las Vegas is the smallest city in the top 10. Others include New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The report also said 67% of Nevada’s homeless were unsheltered — the second-highest percentage in the country.

McGrath said police were investigating whether Castellon could be connected to other unsolved killings and were in contact with authorities in neighboring states.

Three of the shootings — and both killings — happened in Las Vegas, but the other shooting occurred in Logandale, about an hour north of the city. That victim was the only one who wasn’t homeless, but he was alone.

McGrath said police couldn’t be certain Castellon hadn’t traveled outside of the Las Vegas area.

“We’re pretty sure that gun hasn’t been used in another shooting,” McGrath said. “But I can’t definitively say he has not done something similar here — most likely it would be here, but it could be out of state.”

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Castellon will be booked into the Clark County Detention Center after his federal case is resolved.

david.montero@latimes.com

Twitter: @davemontero


UPDATES:

8:30 p.m.: The article was updated extensively with information about the suspect, background about the killings and reaction to the arrest.

The article was originally published at 4:20 p.m.


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