Prosecutors charged a Los Angeles man Thursday with carrying out at least three hate-crime attacks across the region targeting men who were gay or perceived to be gay, and detectives believe more people may have been harmed.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Ceballos said Joshua Ebow is accused of punching two victims and stabbing two others during confrontations at a store and at restaurants in Culver City, Inglewood and West L.A.
Ebow, 30, was arrested Jan. 3 after detectives linked him to the stabbings. Since then, investigators have collected evidence for two other attacks at a Shakey’s Pizza restaurant and the Brentwood eatery Jon & Vinny’s. Three of the incidents have been formally charged as hate-crime enhancements, according to the complaint. Ceballos said evidence in the attacks points to the victims’ sexual orientation as a motive. He declined to provide more details.
Detectives suspect that others may have been targeted by Ebow, said Ceballos, who asked anyone with information to contact police in Los Angeles or Culver City.
Ebow previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault this month but is scheduled to appear in court Monday for arraignment on the newer charges. He remains in custody, and a defense attorney could not immediately be reached for comment. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in state prison.
The rash of attacks on LGBTQ men comes as hate crimes in L.A. County are at their highest rate in nearly a decade. Last year, a total of 322 hate crimes were reported in the city of L.A., a 10.3% increase over the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Authorities in Culver City said Ebow came to their attention Dec. 29, when a stabbing was reported at the Five Guys restaurant in the Westfield Culver City mall. The victim reported he was slashed in the right hand. Witnesses said the assailant swiftly fled, but much of the attack was caught on surveillance cameras.
Four days later, a hospital patient reported that he was stabbed that day in the right arm at a JCPenney store, also in the Culver City mall, police said.
Detectives reviewed surveillance footage and confirmed the same assailant carried out both stabbings.
In a statement after Ebow’s arrest, Culver City police said the man had confessed to the stabbings. He was charged Jan. 7 with two counts of assault and pleaded not guilty.
Later, police in Inglewood identified Ebow as the suspect who had attacked a man Christmas Day at a Shakey’s Pizza. Ceballos, the prosecutor, said Ebow is accused of battery and brandishing a weapon New Year’s Day at the Jon & Vinny’s restaurant on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood.
It’s unclear what triggered the series of assaults. In 2016, federal prosecutors charged Ebow in connection with a fraudulent smog testing scheme in South Los Angeles — a case that disclosed evidence of mental health issues.
Authorities said that Ebow was a licensed technician at a Crenshaw Boulevard smog inspection shop and that he used a substitute vehicle to perform smog checks, allowing ineligible vehicles to pass emissions inspections. The alleged fraud occurred in 2011, but the case was not filed until five years later.
Before trial, Ebow’s defense attorney wrote that she had “concerns” about his “mental health status and cognitive capacity,” according to court documents. The lawyer later told a judge that Ebow had “a documented history of psychiatric hospitalization” while serving in the Navy.
U.S. Navy records obtained by The Times show Ebow served for just over a month in the summer of 2008, never making it out of a basic training program in Illinois.
Federal prosecutors dropped the fraud case in 2017. The case was dismissed “with prejudice,” which prevents authorities from refiling it. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles declined to comment.