BATON ROUGE - Police in Louisiana's capital say they believe the recent killings of three homeless people are connected and they're urging homeless people in the city to stay in shelters as they try to find the killer or killers.
The three victims were shot to death outdoors near downtown Baton Rouge last month. Two were killed in the same place on December 13, and the third on Friday, not far from the first scene.
Investigators have declined to say why they think the shootings are related. An investigation into the killings is underway, police Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. said Wednesday.
But late last week police said they had enough information to suspect a connection and felt compelled to start urging other homeless people in the city not to sleep outdoors.
"Based on the information that we currently have," it's necessary to tell the public that "there is danger in sleeping outside," Police Chief Murphy Paul said in a news conference Friday.
Shootings were discovered two weeks and two blocks apart
The first two bodies were found on the afternoon of December 13 on South 16th Street, near an overpass east of downtown. Christina Fowler, 53, and Gregory Corcoran, 40, were found lying on the ground, dead from gunshot wounds, police said.
They were found under the bridge, CNN affiliate WAFB reported.
Two weeks later, on Friday morning, someone called police to say they saw someone lying along North 18th Street. Responding officers found that Tony Williams, 50, had been shot and killed, Murphy said.
Williams' body was found on the porch of a vacant house, WAFB reported. The scene was about two blocks from where Fowler and Corcoran were found.
Murphy announced the suspected connections between the two sets of shootings later that evening. All three victims "appear to be homeless and therefore vulnerable," Murphy said.
Murphy declined to answer reporters' questions about whether detectives saw signs of struggle, or whether the victims were believed to be asleep when they were shot.
Police officers were reaching out to organizations that offer services to the homeless, Murphy said, urging them to spread the message that people should spend nights in shelters.
Shelter provider says it is adding beds
Michael Acaldo, director of shelter provider St. Vincent de Paul of Baton Rouge, told WAFB on Friday that the organization would add beds to its centers, which he said normally accommodate up to 120 people nightly.
"Certainly having the police chief say that (it's dangerous to sleep outside), that's important," Acaldo said. "It's important not to sleep outside. It's not safe today. It wasn't safe yesterday. It's never safe."