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Man who helped chase down suspect in Calif. homeless killings gets $5,000 reward from deputies
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) ' A forklift driver who helped chase down a suspect in a string of homeless killings after seeing one of the victims stabbed to death received a $5,000 reward from law enforcement on Wednesday.
Donny Hopkins, 32, said he had stopped at a drug store to buy cigarettes for his wife on Jan. 13 when a man burst inside saying the serial killer was outside. The father of two said he ran toward the attacker as he stabbed his victim at least seven times outside a fast-foot restaurant.
"I'm yelling as loud as I can, 'hey ' stop!' at the top of my lungs," Hopkins told The Associated Press. "He just kept going and kept going."
With Hopkins about 10 feet away, the attacker took off. Hopkins said he chased the man into a nearby mobile home park ' where Hopkins lives ' and dialed 911.
Authorities surrounded the area and later that night arrested 23-year-old Itzcoatl Ocampo, a former Marine.
Prosecutors have charged the Iraq war veteran with the murders of four homeless men in a nearly month-long spree that prompted police to fan out across suburban Orange County to urge the homeless to seek shelter indoors.
During that time, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killer in a county more often known as the home to Disneyland and multi-million dollar beachfront homes than for its thousands of homeless people.
The association handed a check to Hopkins at a news conference outside the fast-food restaurant where a memorial of candles, flowers, teddy bears and signs has been created in memory of 64-year-old victim John Berry.
"While we never encourage citizens to put themselves in danger, his actions saved unknown lives," Tom Dominguez, the association's president, told reporters.
Hopkins said he had previously given money to Berry, the man he saw being stabbed.
"I did what I hope anybody would do if you see somebody in trouble," he said. "That's just your first reaction ' to help them."
Hopkins intends to use the reward to get caught up on unpaid bills and help his mother, who lost her job a few weeks ago.
He said he doesn't feel like a hero because he saw Berry die.
"I'm just a guy who did the right thing. John was a Vietnam vet ' he's a hero. That's a real hero," Hopkins told said at the ceremony in Anaheim, about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Prosecutors said Ocampo stalked each of his victims and stabbed them repeatedly with a knife that could cut through bone. Ocampo was caught with blood on his hands and face, prosecutors said.
Ocampo's father, Refugio Ocampo, who also is homeless, said his son was troubled after he returned from Iraq in 2008.
Itzcoatl Ocampo is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 17.
If convicted, he could face a minimum sentence of life without parole.
Prosecutors said Ocampo targeted Berry after he appeared in a Los Angeles Times story about the serial killer. In addition, James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed near a shopping center in Placentia on Dec. 20 and Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28. Paulus Smit, 57, was stabbed to death outside a library in Yorba Linda on Dec. 30.