Man held in San Diego homeless attacks had criminal record

Posted at 3:33 PM, Jul 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-17 18:33:49-04

A man arrested for a string of deadly attacks on the homeless had a long history of crime and mental health issues and was himself living in subsidized housing for the homeless, it was reported.

Jon David Guerrero, 39, was arrested Friday by police who heard a homeless man screaming after he was attacked.

Guerrero remained jailed Saturday on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and arson. It wasn't immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

Police told reporters that they have no doubt they nabbed the man responsible for five attacks since July 3 that left three men dead. The victims — all homeless men — received serious upper-body injuries and two were set on fire.

Police said they had not determined a motive for the attacks.

Guerrero grew up in the wealthy community of Coronado, across the San Diego Bay, known for its mansions and picturesque beaches. But since January he had been living in a rented one-room apartment in downtown's Alpha Square, a subsidized housing complex for the poor and homeless.

Guerrero has a history of criminal arrests and mental problems and spent time at a state mental hospital.

Guerrero's criminal cases in San Diego date from 1999 to 2009. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to burglary, grand theft and possession of marijuana and narcotics paraphernalia. His mother, Kathleen Guerrero, wrote several letters asking the court to seek psychiatric treatment for him in jail, the paper reported.

She said that Guerrero didn't do well on probation because he had trouble following directions and keeping track of time and appointments.

In 2009, Guerrero was arrested again and pleaded guilty to robbery for repeatedly knocking down a homeless woman and stealing her bicycle. He then violated conditions of his probation and was ruled mentally incompetent and sent to Patton State Hospital.

His attorney at the time wrote that Guerrero hears "good" and "bad" voices when his medication wears off but on medication "can lead a normal, productive and crime free life," the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Guerrero was arrested in the pre-dawn hours Friday after a 55-year-old man was attacked under a freeway bridge, suffering severe trauma to his upper body.

Police found Guerrero riding a bicycle nearby and uncovered physical evidence at the scene and at his downtown San Diego residence linking him to all the crimes, police Capt. David Nisleit said.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman called the spate of attacks the worst she has seen in her 34 years in law enforcement.

"I firmly believe Guerrero is the suspect responsible for these vicious crimes," she said.

In all five attacks, the men suffered severe trauma to their upper bodies and most had been sleeping alone. Advocacy groups have urged homeless people to sleep closer together in well-lit areas.

Friday's arrest comes after another man was taken into custody July 7 and then released from jail Monday without being charged. Police said there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute him, and they released a new sketch of the suspected serial killer Thursday.

Guerrero resembles the suspect whose image was caught on a convenience store surveillance video after the first killing July 3. He was wearing a hat Friday similar to the one worn by the man in the video.