San Diego police hunt for potential serial killer who stabbed and burned homeless

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Police chief calls evil acts the worst in her 34 years of law enforcement as city searches for a man who attacked multiple homeless people and set them on fire

San Diego police have launched a manhunt for a suspected potential serial killer who has stabbed homeless people and set them on fire in a spate of evil attacks carried out over just a few days.

Authorities issued enhanced surveillance photos of the suspect on Wednesday hours after he burned and gravely injured a homeless man sleeping on a downtown walkway, his fourth victim this week.

These evil acts are some of the worst Ive seen in my 34 years of law enforcement, police chief Shelley Zimmerman told a press conference. Stopping the spree was the citys highest priority, she said.

Images of the suspect, apparently taken from a store camera, showed a young, white man with dark hair, a brown coat, green cap and black backpack.

Authorities blame him for at least four attacks which have killed two men and left two others in critical condition.

We believe that there is someone out there who will recognize this person. Please lets all work together to get this dangerous person off the street as quickly as possible, said Zimmerman.

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Image of the suspect released by San Diego County Crime Stoppers. Photograph: San Diego County Crime Stoppers

Captain David Nisleit said homicide detectives and other law enforcers were working all-out to catch the suspect and to warn the Californian citys sizable homeless population about the danger.

He declined to use the term serial killer, which is defined as three or more related homicides, but said the brutal attacks were connected. This is a series of homicides being carried out by one person.

In the most recent attack near Horton Plaza on Wednesday morning the suspect placed a burning towel, apparently soaked in flammable liquid, over a 23-year-old homeless man.

Witnesses initially thought it was a flaming pile of clothing. Upon realizing it was a person, one ran to the scene and yanked the towel away. The victim was in hospital in grave condition, said Nisleit. He was not named because next-of-kin had yet to be notified.

A resident of the nearby Park Row condominiums, who did not want to be named, told the San Diego Union Tribune that he witnessed part of the attack after a banging noise woke him.

It sounded like a stick hitting a wall … four or five bangs.

He looked out and saw a what he thought was a blanket on the ground. A man approached it and sprayed something from what might have been an aerosol can, igniting the blanket, before fleeing on foot.

I cant get it out of my mind seeing that guy light that other guy on fire. I havent been able to stop thinking about it, he said. He called the assailants movements quick and intentional.

The gruesome spree began on 2 July, when the body of Angelo de Nardo, a 53-year-old transient, was discovered burning in an open area in Bay Park. An autopsy determined he was killed before being set ablaze. Police declined to state the cause of death.

Witnesses to that attack told investigators they saw a man running across nearby Interstate 5, carrying a gas can.

At 5am the following day, Monday, another homeless man was found bleeding from stab wounds in the Midway district. He was hospitalized in critical condition but expected to survive. Police named him as Manuel Mason, 61, a white male.

Less than 90 minutes, near tennis courts three miles away, another transient, Shawn Longley, 41, was found dead with wounds to the torso.

San Diegos mayor, Kevin Faulconer, said authorities were doing everything they could to prevent further attacks. The San Diego police department is working around the clock to find this killer … all resources are being brought to bear to find this individual.

For many living on the streets in San Diego, violence is a regular threat, said Michael McConnell, a local advocate for the homeless. Attacks against people who are homeless is not uncommon. Random attacks are not uncommon. A lot of people dont report them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/06/san-diego-police-manhunt-killer-homeless-attacks