Police believe a violent attack in which a homeless man was beaten and set on fire in downtown San Diego early Wednesday morning is linked to a series of attacks earlier this week that left two transients dead and a third severely injured.
At 5:10 a.m. Wednesday, officers responded to the 900 block of State Street to find a homeless man with significant trauma to his upper torso. In a news briefing Wednesday, San Diego police Capt. Dave Nisleit said a towel was discovered on fire next to the victim. Officers learned a witness had removed the towel from the victim prior to their arrival, thus saving the victim from serious burns.
The victim was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital with significant injuries. His name and age were not immediately known.
Residents told police they were awoken by loud noises. When they looked out of their homes, they saw the suspect crouched over what they initially thought was clothing, but turned out to be a person on fire. The crouched suspect ran away on foot.
According to Nisleit, investigators have determined that the same person responsible for the attacks on July 3 and July 4 that left two homeless men dead and a third severely injured is responsible for this latest incident.
Investigators have released surveillance photos of the person of interest, but have yet to identify him.
"This is a person that we need removed from the community as fast as we can," Nisleit told
Surveillance cameras at a convenience store near where 53-year-old Angelo De Nardo of San Diego was found dead Sunday morning captured grainy images of the person of interest. That video was made public Tuesday.
De Nardo's body was found in flames in an open area off the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard, according to San Diego police. Witnesses to the attack told investigators they saw a man running across nearby Interstate 5, carrying a gas can.
A second homeless man was found bleeding from stab wounds to his upper body in the 3700 block of Greenwood Street, near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district, shortly before 5 a.m. Monday. He was hospitalized in critical condition, police said.
Less than 90 minutes later, another transient was found dead in the 2500 block of Bacon Street -- about three miles from the scene of the second attack, according to police. His name has not been released.
"We have a person out there attacking victims that were sleeping. They weren't doing anything wrong," San Diego police Capt. David Nisleit told reporters.
Authorities urged area transients to avoid sleeping alone and to stay in open, well-lit areas.
Anyone with information on the cases was asked to call police at 619-531-2293. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477, or by contacting the agency via email at sdcrimestoppers.org.