A suspect was arrested Thursday in connection with a four-day spree of violence that killed two homeless men and critically injured two others in various San Diego neighborhoods.
Anthony Alexander Padgett, 36, was taken into custody in the area of Broadway and H Street in Chula Vista late this morning in connection with the spate of violence, during which two of the victims were set on fire, according to San Diego police.
Padgett was expected to be booked on two counts of murder and multiple assault charges, Capt. David Nisleit said in an early evening news conference. Nisleit declined to disclose a suspected motive for the assaults.
Surveillance cameras at a convenience store near where the first victim was found captured images of a man believed to be Padgett.
Speaking from the back of a police car, Padgett, told NBC7 that he is innocent.
“I look like that person; I’m innocent,” he told the station.
In response to a reporter’s question, Nisleit said it was unclear if Padgett, who was raised in Chula Vista, was homeless himself.
Investigators do not believe there are any outstanding suspects in the case, Nisleit said.
Padgett is believed by investigators to be the suspect seen in surveillance video buying gasoline shortly before the body of a slain homeless man was set ablaze on Sunday, Nisleit told reporters.
About 8 a.m. Sunday, Padgett allegedly killed 53-year-old Angelo De Nardo of San Diego and set his body on fire in an open area off the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard in Bay Park, according to police. An autopsy determined that De Nardo died prior to being set ablaze.
Shortly before 5 a.m. on Independence Day, transient Manuel Mason, 61, was found bleeding from wounds to his upper body near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district. He remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Less than 90 minutes after the assault on Mason was reported, 41-year- old drifter Shawn Longley was discovered dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach.
About 5 a.m. Wednesday, a 23-year-old homeless man was gravely injured in the area of Broadway and State Street, and a towel he was sleeping under was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze, according to police.
The victim, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized in extremely critical condition and had a poor prognosis for survival, officials said.
Authorities have declined to disclose the cause or causes of the targeted men’s non-fire-related injuries, though Nisleit said all four victims had suffered significant trauma to their upper bodies.
A man of the same age and with the same name as Padgett was convicted of mayhem and sentenced to four years in prison after being charged in 2010 for an attack in Chula Vista on a 49-year-old homeless friend, who was also set ablaze, according to newspaper reports.
Over the last five days, police have been warning the homeless to protect themselves by remaining vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times, avoiding sleeping alone on the streets and staying in open, well-lit areas.
Father Joe’s Villages, a major local homeless services provider, announced that it was seeking funding to provide additional beds at its downtown St. Vincent de Paul Village shelter as a means of helping protect those who have nowhere else to stay.
San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman described the attacks as “evil acts of violence” that “are some of the worst that I have seen in my 34 years in law enforcement.”
Nisleit said tonight that detectives would be reviewing other recent assaults against the local homeless population to determine whether they might be related to this week’s series of attacks.
Anyone with information that could be pertinent to the investigation was asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 or contact the agency online at sdcrimestoppers.org.
–City News Service
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