A man from Texas who is suspected of killing 3 people and seriously injuring 4 in what was a 17-day string of attacks on Southern California men who were sleeping – most of them homeless – was found to have been deported from the United States 6 times and had a lengthy criminal history, immigration officials said on Tuesday night.
Forty-seven year old Ramon Escobar, who was believed to also be homeless, likely targeted his victims in both Los Angeles and Santa Monica to rob them, Los Angeles police Capt. William Hayes told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday.
WATCH: Capt. William Hayes News Conference on Ramon Escobar:
Hayes went on to say that the numerous attacks did not appear to be based on any hatred for homeless people, CBS Los Angeles reports. “I think it was a crime of opportunity,” he said. ” … It appears the motive in most of these cases was robbery.”
Three of Escobar’s victims – two in Los Angeles and one in Santa Monica – have died. Police say that Escobar’s weapons of choice included a wooden baseball bat and a pair of bolt cutters, both of which have been recovered by police from Escobar’s car and believed to have been used in the violent attacks.
The suspect was arrested Monday in Santa Monica following yet another violent early morning assault on a man in the 1500 block of Seventh Street. Escobar beat the man unconscious and robbed him of his possessions. That victim still remains in a coma.
Escobar could be charged Wednesday with both murder and attempted murder in connection with the series of attacks.
Authorities in Houston were already investigating Escobar in the disappearance of his aunt and uncle, 60-year-old Dina Escobar and her brother, 65-year-old Rogelio Escobar, Houston police said in a statement.
Hayes called Escobar a “violent predator” and said investigators believe he drove from Houston to California after the disappearance of his aunt and uncle, attacking the men in Los Angeles and suburban Santa Monica starting September 8th.
Dina Escobar’s burned van was discovered in Galveston, Texas, a few days after she had gone looking for her brother. She was last seen on August 28th, just two days after her brother went missing, the statement said.
Dina Escobar’s daughter, Ligia Salamanca, spoke with CBS affiliate KHOU-TC Tuesday:
“The detectives called me last night wanting me to know before I saw it on the media that there has been an arrest made of a family member and it may be connected to our case,” Salamanca said.
Salamanca told the station that she’s glad to have answers, though she is heartbroken to hear the news.
“The not knowing is the worst, going to sleep every night not knowing where your family is, what they’re going through or if something bad happened; not having them at home to know what they’re going through – to lay them to rest if that’s what it comes to,” she said.
Salmanca said her cousin had been looking for work as well as a place to stay and his uncle had taken him into his home, but went missing just a few days later.
In this video from CBS-LA Channel 2 News Escobar can be seen ransacking the victims pockets and taking items from their pockets:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said late Tuesday night that Escobar had been removed from the United States 6 times between 1997 and 2011.
ICE said after Escobar reentered the U.S. again illegally, he won an appeal of his immigration case in 2016 and had been released from custody last year.
Escobar had spent 5 years in prison for robbery beginning in the mid 90s, Hayes said. Criminal records in Texas show Escobar had arrests for failure to stop, public intoxication, two assaults, with the most recent one in November of 2017, vehicle burglary, and trespassing.
Escobar is being held without bail and ICE has filed a detainer seeking to take Escobar into custody immediately if he is released.
Escobar makes his first appearance in court on Wednesday.
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