Cops Probe Possible Ties Between Prowler Suspect and West L.A. Rapes

Santa Monica police on patrol
Santa Monica police on patrol

UPDATE at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, 2016: Police arrested a suspect in the string of sexual assaults. It's not the prowler suspect. See the latest here.

A man fired on by a Santa Monica cop over the weekend is being investigated for possible ties to a pair of rapes in nearby West Los Angeles, police told L.A. Weekly.

"We're looking into that possibility," says Lt. Saul Rodriguez of the Santa Monica Police Department. "We're looking for any connection to any other crimes."

Those other crimes might include multiple burglaries in Santa Monica. Likewise, Los Angeles police looking into the sexual assaults reported over the Fourth of July weekend are probing whether the same suspect could be responsible for a string of burglaries in the West L.A. area, says Det. Deann Larkin of the department's West Bureau Special Assault Section.

"That's a possibility," Larkin says of tying the suspect to burglaries. "But we haven't been able to connect all the dots just yet."

Rodriguez says possible DNA and fingerprint ties to other crimes were being probed by investigators.  "If he was involved" in the West L.A. attacks, he says, "we'll know for sure."

The Santa Monica suspect, 35-year-old Kenneth Whitfield of Palmdale, was booked Saturday on suspicion of prowling, vehicle tampering, receiving stolen property and violating his probation, according to a police statement.

Whitfield is on formal probation for receiving stolen property and vehicle theft, according to Santa Monica police, and he's also on summary probation for making criminal threats. Formal probation requires that a convict check in regularly with a county officer.

Cops on patrol near 23rd Street and Carlyle Avenue on Saturday came across "a man wearing dark clothing lurking in the area," according to the Santa Monica department.

"Officers noticed Whitfield walking up and down various residential driveways, peering into residential windows and attempting to open car doors," Rodriguez says. "As officers attempted to make contact, Whitfield concealed himself from the officers behind a parked car."

For reasons not made clear, an officer opened fire. He missed, and the suspect was not injured, according to police. The suspect was handcuffed and jailed.

Detectives want to rule out Whitfield in two February sexual assaults in Santa Monica, Rodriguez says, who points out that another suspect also was being investigated in that case.

The West L.A. attacks took place July 2 and July 4 in the 1400 block and 1900 block of South Westgate Avenue, the latter location adjacent to Stoner Park in the Sawtelle neighborhood.

Capt. Tina Nieto of the LAPD's West Los Angeles Division called the attacker a "violent sexual predator."

The Sawtelle suspect was described as a 6-foot-1-inch, 160-pound African-American man in his mid to late 20s, with facial hair. Los Angeles police released a brief security video clip of a man who might be the suspect (below).

The Santa Monica incident Saturday was northwest of the Sawtelle attacks (see a map, below).

Anyone with information on the West L.A. crimes is asked to call investigators at 213-473-0447.  

A route from the Santa Monica prowler suspect apprehension to the area of the West L.A. attacks.
A route from the Santa Monica prowler suspect apprehension to the area of the West L.A. attacks.
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