A man was arrested Friday in connection with a series of robberies and assaults apparently targeting elderly women in Long Beach after an hours-long interview with police, officials said.
Police also said that Melvin Earl Farmer Jr., 39, was involved in the most recent robbery and attempted sexual assault of a 90-year-old woman in the city, said Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.
Farmer, of Lynwood, was arrested Friday morning and after a "thorough interview" he was booked on suspicion of residential robbery, rape by force or fear, oral copulation, making death threats and assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, Luna said. The chief added that Farmer has a long criminal history, which includes robbery and theft.
A 31-year-old woman was also arrested as an accomplice in the crimes, but Luna did not detail what her role was and she was not identified.
"We hope our community can rest a little easier tonight," Luna said during a news conference Friday evening.
He said a motive for the crimes has not been determined and the incidents remain under investigation.
On Thursday, officers responded to a panic alarm at a home in the 3700 block of Pacific Avenue and discovered that a robbery had occurred. The assailant attempted to sexually assault the 90-year-old woman, but the victim fought off her attacker, police said. She was taken to a hospital with injuries that appeared to be non-life threatening.
Investigators determined that an African-American man rang the victim’s doorbell and forced his way into her home, attacked the woman and then ran away from the area.
The other incidents occurred between Feb. 2 and Feb. 5. Four women reported similar crimes in a senior housing complex near Atlantic Avenue and Via Carmelitos, police said. The victims were between 63 and 95 years old.
Police said that in most of the cases a man knocked on the door, forced his way into the residence and physically assaulted the victims before stealing items from them, including cell phones, purses and cash.
Neighborhood residents were relieved that a suspect had been caught, but still felt shaken by the experience.
"I’m glad they caught the person and I hope — I don’t know — I’m still nervous," Joe Anne Nixon, one of the victim's neighbors, told KTLA. "I’m trying to run to the store right now and get back in, that’s why I have my dog with me."
Earlier this week, police released information about a "person of interest" in the first four cases. He was described as African-American, 25 to 30 years old, 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-11 inches tall, with a thin build, the release stated. Police also released an image of the man taken from a neighborhood surveillance camera. Authorities confirmed that Farmer was the person of interest and he was arrested.
Luna said authorities believe there may be more victims who were attacked by Farmer and encourage them to come forward.