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Suspect arrested in Downey shooting rampage

October 26, 2012 |  4:20 pm

This post has been updated, as noted below.

Downey police have arrested a man and booked him in connection with the deaths of three people killed in a shooting rampage earlier this week.

The man was taken into custody Thursday afternoon and questioned. He was formally booked Friday morning, authorities said.

[Updated at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 26: An earlier version of this post said the suspect was booked on suspicion of killing three people and wounding two others. Downey police have declined to release the suspect's name and the charges he was booked on. A press release from the department noted only that the detained suspect had been formally arrested, taken to county jail and booked pending his arraignment. Police said in a release on Thursday that the suspect matched the description of the gunman.]

Police are still trying to determine a motive for the shootings. A city councilman had said the attack was a drug-related hit.

The family targeted, however, described the shooting as a violent car robbery.

At a news conference an attorney for the family decried the killings as senseless and insisted that drugs were not involved.

"They have not been able to fully grieve for the loss of life," attorney Arshak Bartoumian said. "As you can understand, they are in shock."

A family spokeswoman, Martha Zerehi, said the gunman responded to a Craigslist ad for a Chevrolet Camaro.

He arrived at the family's business, United States Fire Protection Services, on Cleta Street about 11 a.m. Wednesday. He was allowed to enter through the front door, which is usually kept locked, Zerehi said.

He drew a handgun and demanded the car, Zerehi said. He forced a male worker to tie up the two women, one of whom was the mother of the firm's owners, Robert and Antonio Salinas. The gunman was told that the car was not at the business but down the street at the family home.

At some point, Susana Perez walked in with her 13-year-old son, whom she had picked up early from school for a dental appointment. The gunman shot and killed two employees, Josimar Rojas, 26, of Downey and Irene Cardenas, 35, of Cudahy.

Maria Fuentes, 52, a member of the Salinas family, was shot in the face and hand and remains hospitalized in serious condition, Bartoumian said.

Perez and her son were ordered to drive the gunman in their truck to the home.

Once at the house, Zerehi said, he held a gun to the boy's head and threatened to kill him.

"Do you know how easy it is to kill you right now?" the gunman reportedly asked. Perez pushed the gun in an effort to save her son. He shot and killed her, then turned the gun on the boy.

At that point, Zerehi said, the boy pretended he was dead or unconscious. The gunman fled in the stolen Camaro, which police later found in Los Angeles.

"He played dead to live," Zerehi said. The gunman "thought he killed everybody."


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-- Richard Winton in Downey and Wesley Lowery in Los Angeles