News & Politics

Suspect in L.A. Homeless Killings a Repeatedly Deported 'Violent Predator'

This photo provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows Ramon Escobar. (Texas Department of Public Safety via AP)

The maniac who bludgeoned three homeless men to death and seriously injured four others in a series of brutal attacks over 17 days in the Los Angeles area was living in the United States illegally after being deported multiple times, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ramon Escobar, 47, was first ordered removed from the U.S. by a federal immigration judge in February 1988, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Between 1997 and 2011, he was deported to El Salvador six times. In that time, Escobar racked up a lengthy criminal record that included arrests for assault, burglary, trespassing in the Houston area, and felony re-entry, according to court records and ICE.

At some point he was allowed back into the country as an asylum seeker, the Times reported, but it’s not clear when.

“After illegally reentering the U.S. following his most-recent removal, [Escobar] filed an appeal of his immigration case … in June 2016, which the courts granted in December 2016. ICE released him from custody on an Order of Supervision in January 2017 pursuant to the court’s decision,” ICE said in a statement.

Escobar traveled more than 1,500 miles starting from Houston after his aunt and uncle disappeared, hitting the Pacific Ocean on September 5. He is considered a person of interest in the disappearance of his aunt and uncle. His violent rampage allegedly began on September 8 in Santa Monica, where police found a homeless man with severe injuries to his head. He had been savagely beaten as he slept on the beach:

Over the course of 17 days, police allege, Escobar would approach six other men the same way — sneaking up as they dozed in secluded areas, sometimes clutching a wooden baseball bat or a pair of bolt cutters.

Police believe Escobar cut a bloody swath across Los Angeles and Santa Monica, beating three men to death and seriously injuring four others in a series of vicious attacks that jolted the city’s vulnerable homeless population.

“It’s not just that people are being murdered. You hear of people being bludgeoned to death on city sidewalks,” said Mel Tillekeratne, executive director of Shower of Hope, which provides free mobile showers and other hygiene services to the homeless. “It breaks your heart.”

Investigators will seek to charge Escobar with murder in the deaths of Kelvin Williams, 59, Braden Ridout, 34, and Steven Ray Cruze Jr., 39, Capt. Billy Hayes, who heads the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said at a downtown news conference.

Escobar will also face attempted murder charges in attacks on four homeless men in Santa Monica and Los Angeles that took place from Sept. 8 to 24, Hayes said. Three of those men remain in critical condition, police said. Police said surveillance video and other forensic evidence linked Escobar to most of the attacks.

Although nearly all of the attacks involved homeless victims, Capt. Hayes said detectives think Escobar was targeting isolated individuals so he could rob them, not necessarily because they were homeless. Surveillance footage showed the assailant rummaging through his victims’ pockets in some of the attacks.

He said the LAPD was contacting authorities in cities along the route Escobar took from Houston to determine if other attacks could be connected to its investigation.

“He is a violent predator,” Hayes said.