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December 14, 2018

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Metro seeks answers in rash of violence against Las Vegas homeless

Homeless killing

METRO POLICE

This screen shot from surveillance video shows a man shooting a homeless man who was sleeping in downtown Las Vegas.

Updated Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 | 8:45 p.m.

Editor's note: The attached video contains graphic violence that may be considered offensive.

An elderly homeless man who was sleeping in downtown Las Vegas early Friday was killed execution-style, prompting Metro Police to be on high alert and explore the possibility that his death is connected to a similar slaying days earlier.

“It’s a high level of violence involving a homeless person who’s doing nothing but sleeping on the ground,” said Metro Lt. Dan McGrath about Friday’s shooting. “There’s no fight, there’s no argument, it’s basically an execution.”

Investigators are searching for a suspect, a thin man who stands about 6 feet, McGrath said. On Friday, he wore Dickies-style shorts, black Converse-style high-top sneakers and a jacket. He drove a small, dark-colored SUV.

A person who showed up to feed the victim, a black man in his 70s, found his body about 10 a.m. and summoned police to the area near the U.S. 95 bridge on 14th Street, near an apartment complex, police said.

The shooting, which occurred about 4:15 a.m., was captured on grainy video made public Friday afternoon.

The gunman arrives, flips a U-turn and exits the vehicle. He hesitantly approaches the man, who is underneath a blanket. From close range, he crouches forward and fires twice. At least one struck the victim in the head, McGrath said.

He then hurries back into his car and drives south toward Marlin Avenue before heading east, McGrath said.

The modus operandi used Friday is similar to that of a suspect who fatally shot a sleeping homeless man about 3 a.m. Monday outside the Rancho Discount Mall in the 2900 block of Washington Avenue, near Rancho Drive, McGrath said.

A recent nonfatal shooting of a homeless man near Washington Avenue and Veterans Memorial Park may also be connected, McGrath said. The victim, who was shot in the face, could not provide pertinent information, but gunfire erupted in the early-morning hours, similar to the two killings.

Investigators are awaiting forensic analysis to see if the same suspect is involved in the three shootings. "We can't 100 percent say they're connected, but there are some similarities," McGrath said. Other violent incidents against transients across the central valley also are being evaluated.

Metro has implemented an “aggressive” plan, increasing patrol officers and detectives near homeless populations. The agency is on high alert, and its leadership is being briefed on the developments. Within 24 hours, forensic analysis should shed light on the theory that the three shootings may be connected, Capt. Robert Plummer said.

Detectives on Friday afternoon were going door-to-door trying to drum up leads, McGrath said. Police are asking nearby residents with security systems to review the footage.

The FBI was assisting Metro in enhancing the surveillance footage recovered Friday, which was publicly released after McGrath and Plummer spoke to reporters.

Friday's was the fourth Metro homicide investigation this year involving a homeless victim, the third in less than a week.

On Sunday, officers arriving to a gas station in the 4100 block of Paradise Road found a gravely wounded man who'd been stabbed during some sort of argument, police said.

The agency’s first homicide investigation of 2018 kicked off Jan. 3, after the discovery of a decomposed body, which was found with blunt injuries and broken bones under a blanket at a west valley homeless camp.

A Wednesday central valley nonfatal shooting of a homeless victim was likely not connected to the killings, McGrath said.

In December, a homeless man and woman were found shot to death behind a central valley swap meet. Police later arrested a man they said pulled the trigger.

According to his arrest report, Michael Thomspon told a neighbor that he’d killed Alfred Wilhelm because he disliked sex offenders and Rhonda Ballow because he couldn’t get her to leave before he opened fire.

Early last year, two homeless men, Daniel Aldape, 46, and David Dunn, 60, were bludgeoned to death as they slept not far from each other weeks apart in downtown Las Vegas. In a decoy operation in which Metro Police used a mannequin covered with blankets, Shane Schindler smashed the doll with a hammer before he was arrested.

In the case, which garnered national attention, Schindler maintained his innocence, saying he knew he’d targeted a mannequin. He was later convicted of attempted murder for targeting the doll.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Metro at 702-828-3521 or via email at [email protected] To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or online at crimestoppesrofnv.com.