BHPD Captures Murder Suspect

Beverly Hills police officers detained a 33-year-old Los Angeles man last week who was suspected of killing the victim of a follow-home robbery in San Dimas and three homeless people in Los Angeles. The individual, 33-year-old Jerrid Joseph Powell, was arrested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and charged with four counts of murder, one count of residential robbery and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was held without bail as of press time and scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 8, according to online inmate records.

If convicted as charged, Powell could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

During a Dec. 2 press conference held by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore and Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook, details emerged of the events leading up to Powell’s arrest. 

On Nov. 28, surveillance footage showed that 42-year-old Nicholas Simbolon’s Tesla was followed from an EV charging station in West Covina by a gray BMW 440i before he was shot and killed in his garage. The sedan that had been tailing the victim was spotted by automated license plate readers the following evening and then stopped by Beverly Hills Police Department officers near Santa Monica Boulevard and Rexford Drive.

“Between the great job of our dispatchers and our virtual patrol officers, they were able to direct officers to where the vehicle was, stop that individual and take him into custody safely, which I think is very important because he wasn’t complying initially with the instructions officers were giving him,” Stainbrook said during the news conference.

The BMW’s driver, Powell, was placed in Sheriff’s Department custody. A gun found inside the sedan was linked to not only Simbolon’s death, but the killings of three homeless men in Los Angeles last week, Moore said. 

The victim of the first homicide in Los Angeles, 37-year-old Jose Villamos, was killed Nov. 26 at about 3 a.m. in an alley behind 836 W. 110th St. The next victim, 62-year-old Mark Diggs, died shortly before 5 a.m. Nov. 27. 

The fourth person Powell was suspected of killing was found on Nov. 29 at about 2:30 a.m. near South Avenue 18 and Pasadena Avenue. That victim’s identity was not immediately released, pending the notification of his relatives.

Amidst what appeared to be a streak of related homicides targeting homeless people, Bass urged those living on the street to “try not to sleep alone tonight.” City officials encouraged unhoused members of the community to seek shelter as law enforcement searched for a possible serial killer.

“Living on the streets, we already know, is dangerous, and we already know that four to five people die each day on our streets from a range of causes,” Bass said during a Dec. 1 news conference. “And violence is certainly one of them. But I want to be very clear about what we’re facing today: this is a killer who is preying on the unhoused.”

The automated license plate reader that flagged Powell’s car is part of an advanced security infrastructure woven throughout Beverly Hills that includes 50 such devices in addition to 2,400 cameras monitored 24 hours a day, Stainbrook said. The department’s  Real Time Watch Center assisted in the arrest of 62 and the recovery of 110 stolen vehicles within the first year of its establishment last June, city officials noted in a news release.

Both Stainbrook and Luna applauded the technology for its role in the case. However, it has been criticized by privacy advocates concerned about law enforcement’s use of vast security networks that inevitably track the movement of potential criminals and law-abiding citizens alike at all times.

“We know there’s controversy about the usage of this system,” Luna said. “But let us tell our community something: if we did not enter that plate into the system, this individual that we believe is responsible for at least four murders may have been out there and reoffending. And he was victimizing, as was said, some of our most vulnerable community members.”