Suspect: Police in Santa Monica on Monday arrested Ramon Escobar, 47 (pictured in a surveillance video) on suspicion on attacking a sleeping homeless man and bludgeoning him
A Texas man suspected of killing three people and seriously injuring four in a string of attacks on sleeping Southern California men – most of them homeless – had a long criminal history and had been deported from the United States seven times, immigration officials said Tuesday night.
Ramon Escobar, 47, who was believed homeless himself, likely targeted victims to rob them, Los Angeles police Capt. William Hayes told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
Escobar could be charged Wednesday with murder and attempted murder in connection with a string of attacks.
Meanwhile, authorities in Houston investigated him for the disappearance of his aunt and uncle.
Escobar was being held without bail but U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials have filed a detainer seeking to take him into custody if he is released, the agency said.
Escobar was first ordered removed from the country in 1988 and was deported to his native El Salvador six times between 1997 and 2011, ICE said in a statement Tuesday night.
Capt. Billy Hayes, left, told media at LAPD headquarters Tuesday that Escobar likely targeted victims to rob them
Hayes (right) called Escobar a ‘violent predator’ and said investigators believe he drove to California from Houston after his relatives disappeared
He also has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal reentry, ICE said.
Hayes called Escobar a ‘violent predator’ and said investigators believe he drove to California from Houston after his relatives disappeared and attacked the men in Los Angeles and suburban Santa Monica beginning Sept. 8.
Escobar was arrested Monday after a man sitting on a sidewalk was beaten unconscious and robbed of some of his possessions, Santa Monica police said. That victim remains in coma.
Detectives seized a wooden baseball bat and bolt cutters that police believe he used to carry out the attacks on random victims.
After his arrest in Santa Monica police confirmed he is being investigated in connection with at least six other attacks, three of them resulting in deaths, as well as the disappearance of his mother and uncle in Texas.
Lt. Saul Rodriguez says investigators are trying to determine whether Escobar might also be the culprit who beat two homeless men in the coastal city earlier this month and killed another man, fisherman Steven Ray Cruze Jr, 39, who was found dead under the pier last week.
Escobar, suspected in at least seven attacks – three of them deadly – was caught on surveillance video in downtown Los Angeles in mid-September
Police initially described Cruze as homeless, but his family said he was a deck hand on sportfishing and whaling boats and would sometime sleep under the Santa Monica Pier so he could be closer to work after late-night fishing.
‘He called his girlfriend at midnight. He said he was going to fish, then sleep, and go to work in the morning,’ his aunt Cathy Smith told NBC Bay Area.
Cruze is survived by his 12-year-old son, James, who wrote of his slain father in the description of a GoFundMe campaign that he was ‘the best daddy.’
Police in Los Angeles say they suspect Escobar used a baseball bat to batter three homeless men as they slept on downtown streets before dawn on September 16. Two of the victims, ages 20 and 59, later died of their injuries.
The third victim was hospitalized in critical condition.
The attacker was caught on surveillance video in downtown Los Angeles rifling through trash cans, leading police to believe that he, too, was homeless.
Detectives pointed out that the man in the footage, dressed in shorts, sneakers and a baseball cap, was extremely bow-legged.
Police are investigating Escobar in connection to the beating death of fisherman and father-of-one Steve Cruze, Jr, 39 (pictured), who was found dead under the Santa Monica Pier last week
Escobar is also a person of interest in the disappearance of his mother, Dina Escobar (right) and his uncle, Rogelio Escobar (left)
Police in Houston reported that Escobar is also a person of interest in the disappearance of his mother, Dinora Escobar, and his uncle, Rogelio Escobar.
Rogelio, 65, was last seen on August 26 at his home in Houston. There have been no sightings of him for the past month.
His sister, 60-year-old Dinora, went missing two days later after going over to her brother’s home to look for him.
Police later found her 2007 Chevy Uplander minivan torched on a Galveston beach.
‘To lose a mom is like… it’s the worst feeling in the world, so it’s just really hard, and we just gotta keep praying and searching,’ Dinora’s other son, Walter Salamanca, told Fox 26 in early September.
The woman has four children and her brother has two sons.
Relatives in Texas told ABC7 they have not heard from Ramon since the disappearances but said he stopped taking medication for an unspecified mental illness around that time.
Dina, 60, went missing on August 28, two days after her brother, after she went looking for him. The woman’s van was later found torched on a Texas beach