A 35-year-old Long Beach man has been arrested as the suspect in a series of at-gunpoint rapes of women working as prostitutes in the South Los Angeles and Compton area, authorities said Wednesday.
Ferdinand Ervin Flowers was taken into custody about 1:30 a.m. Jan. 12, after detectives spotted him in an industrial area near Carson where victims had been dropped off in past. He was seen pushing a woman out of a white Honda Civic, police said.
The woman told police she had been victimized, and detectives found Flowers in the car with a handgun.
“We do believe we have the right predator off he streets who committed these horrific crimes,” said Justin Eisenberg, chief of detectives for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Flowers, who police said works as a security guard, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three felonies: kidnapping to commit rape and/or robbery, assault with intent to commit rape, and second-degree robbery.
The charges are linked to the Jan. 12 incident, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a news release. Flowers' alleged victim that day was 19-year-old female sex worker picked up in Lynwood. Flowers pointed a handgun at the woman and demanded her money but she was able to get out of the car, the DA's office said.
The .40-caliber handgun police recovered is registered to Flowers.
He is suspected in 13 incidents involving 14 victims, many of whom were left in the Dominguez Hills area. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 46, police said last month.
Detectives still think there are more victims, and are asking them to come forward. They provided images of his two vehicles – a 2001 black Dodge Ram extended cab pickup and the white Civic, a 2008 four-door model – hoping that would help victims. He was described as a black man, but no photo of him was released..
The first attack, in January 2014, targeted a victim who was picked up near 74th and Flower streets and taken to an industrial area near Carson, where the assailant sexually assaulted her at gunpoint. He dumped her and fled.
Three more similar crimes occurred in the rest of 2014, but no similar crimes were reported in 2015 or 2016, said at a news conference Wednesday.
The series started up again in April 2017, and police soon linked that case through forensic evidence to similar incidents in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department neighboring jurisdiction. The two agencies began working together.
Last month, on the same day as the most recent assault, on Dec. 15, authorities announced the series of crimes and asked for help finding the assailant.
Flowers has a 2010 arrest for soliciting a prostitute, but has no other criminal record, authorities said.
State records show Flowers has a current exposed firearm permit, first issued in 2009, and is qualified to operate a .38-caliber, .45-caliber, .40-caliber and 9 mm firearms as well as a .357 Magnum. His security guard license, also current, was issued in 2003.
If convicted as charged, Flowers face up to life in state prison, along with lifetime registration as a sex offender. He is due back in court in Compton on Feb. 15.
He's being held on $1.25 million bail, inmate records indicate.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the caliber of the firearms Flowers was licensed to use. The story has been updated.