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Shelters promote safety after 'death warrant' homeless stabbings

July 20, 2012 |  4:42 pm

On hot days, staffers at the Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter in downtown L.A. hand out bottles of cold water. Lately, the bottles have come with a verbal warning.

Los Angeles police believe that one man is responsible for stabbing three transients as they slept on bus benches and sidewalks and for leaving rambling typewritten notes called "death warrants." On Thursday, authorities released a photo of someone they wanted to question called David Ben Keyes. On Friday, police announced that the photo is actually of Courtney Anthony Robinson, who has been reported missing from Santa Barbara for weeks.

But with no Internet access or newspaper subscriptions, the only way for the city's homeless to get the information is by word of mouth.

"We just let them know that they can stay with us, and verbally warn them about what's going on in the news," said Kitty Walker-Davis, director of public relations at the Union Rescue Mission.

Officers in the central city area have begun to circulate a photo of Robinson among the homeless and are urging them to seek shelter, said LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman. Police have also increased nighttime patrols and directed social services agencies to brace for an influx of the homeless.

The Union Rescue Mission, one of the city's largest nonprofit homeless shelters, has space for 800 people. Walker-Davis said staffers have posted warning fliers around its building and plan to announce the news at three daily lunches the mission provides.

Midnight Mission, also downtown, is prepared to use its 300-person cafeteria to accommodate more overnight sleepers, said Mai Lee, director of public relations.

Peter Griffith, communications director for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said he's encouraging everyone to be cautious in general.

"Not everybody takes the offer of shelter, so it's good to be in groups and stay in places that are well-lit. Report anything that's suspicious," Griffith said.

The first attack was reported July 3, when a 56-year-old man was found with a large "hunting type" knife protruding from his back near 3rd and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles. The man crawled 100 yards looking for help with the weapon lodged between his shoulder blades, sources said.

Another man was stabbed Tuesday as he slept on a bus bench near the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. A 54-year-old woman was stabbed as she slept near La Brea and De LongPre avenues near Hollywood High School. Police recovered a black kitchen knife and another typewritten note. 

Authorities said have no motive yet and wouldn't call Robinson a suspect, but there is evidence to believe that the three attacks were linked.


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LAPD tells homeless to seek shelter after 3 "death warrant" stabbings

-- Frank Shyong