Los Angeles police and the county Sheriff's Department are looking for a man who has been preying on women working as prostitutes, holding them at gunpoint and taking them to a secluded location to rape them.
The most recent crime occurred Friday morning, the commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s high-profile Robbery-Homicide Division said at a Friday afternoon news conference.
The series of sex assaults on women has been taking place since January 2014, and investigators have identified 12 victims so far. At least one victim is as young as 15.
“We have a predator out here who is preying on individuals while using a weapon and assaulting them,” Capt. William Hayes said. “The prostitution activity is not an issue that’s our concern at this point in time.”
The investigation started after DNA evidence from a sexual assault that occurred in May was matched to a similar crime that occurred January 2014 and was investigated by the Sheriff's Department, Hayes said. Another case was also found to have matching DNA, bringing the total to three, Hayes said.
The cases all involve a similar pattern of behavior by the attacker, whom LAPD described as "sexual predator" who has committed “kidnap and rape.”
He drives along the Western Avenue or Alameda Street corridors and solicits women involved in prostitution, talks to them, gets them inside his vehicle and pulls out a handgun. He then drives them to a remote unincorporated area near South Los Angeles and sexually assaults them, Hayes said.
On Friday morning, the victim was picked up in Compton and taken to a remote location where the man sexually assaulted her, Hayes said.
Only one victim was struck by the attacker when she tried to refuse him, the captain said. The others were not subject to additional physical harm other than the sexual assault, he said.
The victims range in age from 15 to 46.
The assailant was described by Hayes as black man, 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 1 inch tall, 180 to 220 pounds, bald with a salt-and-pepper goatee or beard. Depending in victims’ accounts, the attacker was described as between 30 and 50 years old, Hayes said.
In earlier assaults, he was described as driving an older model, two-door black Dodge Ram pickup truck with tinted windows; in more recent attacks, he drove a smaller, older model white four-door sedan, possibly a Toyota or a Nissan.
Police are working with investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which patrols the area where some of the women were picked up.
(An LAPD news release provided a slightly different description of the rapist that was based on incidents only in Los Angeles; the information provided by Hayes included reports from victims in the Sheriff's Department area as well.)
Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Detectives Dara Brown or Daniel Aguirre, Robbery Homicide Division, Special Assault Section, at 213-486-6910. Off hours tips may be made at 877-527-3247; anonymous tips may go to 800-222-8477.