LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man arrested in connection with a series of beatings of mostly homeless victims -- three of whom died -- has been linked to a total of seven attacks in Los Angeles and Santa Monica and is a person of interest in the disappearance of two relatives in Texas, police said today.
Ramon Escobar, 47, was arrested Monday in Santa Monica following the early morning assault of a man in the 1500 block of Seventh Street. That man remains in a coma, police said.
Escobar is an El Salvador native, police said. He was deported to El Salvador six times between 1997 and 2011, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“After illegally re-entering the U.S. following his most recent removal, Escobar filed an appeal of his immigration case with the Board of Immigration Appeals in June 2016, which the courts granted in December 2016,” the statement said. “ICE released him from custody on an order of supervision in January 2017, pursuant to the court's decision.”
According to police, Escobar has been linked to a total of seven attacks:
-- a Sept. 8 assault of a person who was sleeping on the beach in Santa Monica, with the victim treated and released from a hospital;
-- a Sept. 10 attack of a man also sleeping on the Santa Monica beach in the same area, with the victim still in a coma;
-- the Sept. 16 attacks of three homeless people in downtown Los Angeles, with two of those victims -- Kelvin Williams, 59, and Brandon Ridout, 24, both of Los Angeles -- later dying and the other remaining hospitalized in critical condition and on life-support;
-- the Sept. 20 fatal beating of a man, 39-year-old Steven Cruze Jr. of San Gabriel, under the Santa Monica Pier; and
-- a 7 a.m. Monday attack at Seventh Street and Colorado in Santa Monica, with that man remaining in a coma.
Police said detectives searched Escobar's SUV Tuesday and seized a wooden baseball bat believed to have been used in the Sept. 16 attacks in downtown Los Angeles. Santa Monica police investigating Monday's attack found a pair of bolt cutters, which is believe to be the weapon used in that assault.
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Billy Hayes said police plan to present their investigations to the District Attorney's Office on Wednesday -- three murder investigations and four attempted murder probes.
Hayes said the attacks did not appear to be based on any hatred toward homeless people, even though all of the victims except Cruze were apparently homeless.
“I think it was a crime of opportunity,” he said. “... It appears the motive in most of these cases was robbery.”
Hayes said Escobar was homeless himself, having recently arrived in the area from Texas in a 2004 black Honda CRV. He said Escobar arrived in the Southland Sept. 5, three days before the attacks began.
Escobar is a person of interest in the disappearances in Houston of his aunt and uncle, Rogelio and Dina Escobar. Both went missing late last month, and police suspect foul play. Hayes said Escobar was questioned by police in Texas on Aug. 30, “and shortly after that it appears he fled the state of Texas.”
Hayes said Escobar served five years in prison from 1995-2000 in Texas for some type of burglary, and has subsequent arrests in 2017 and earlier this year on suspicion of assault and criminal trespassing. He is a native of El Salvador who had previously been deported, the captain said. His current immigration status was not immediately clear.
Escobar remains jailed without bail pending an anticipated court appearance Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles.
The trio of downtown Los Angeles attacks occurred between 4 and 5 a.m. on Sept. 16, and the LAPD later released surveillance video of a man suspected in those beatings, which investigators said were carried out with a baseball bat. Investigators noted that the suspect walked with a distinctively bow-legged gait.
The first attack was at the northwest corner of Fifth and Flower streets, while the second and third happened on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, just east of Flower Street, Hayes said.
All three victims were attacked while they slept, and the suspect went through their belongings before leaving the scene, Hayes said.
At about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Cruze was found fatally beaten beneath the Santa Monica Pier. Although Cruze was initially described by authorities as homeless, his family said that was not the case.
His father, Steven Cruze Sr., told reporters his son was a commercial fisherman who sometimes slept under the pier before going to work in Marina del Rey.
“He had a membership with a gym so could get up in the morning, go take a shower and go to work,” the elder Cruz said. “He knows so many people on this pier, he felt safe.”