Suspect in O.C. killings shot at drivers on 55 Freeway, police say
Authorities believe the man suspected of killing three people in a series of slayings and carjackings in Orange County early Tuesday also fired at vehicles on the 55 Freeway, causing minor injuries to at least one person.Officials said the suspect fired either while driving or that he stopped, got out of his vehicle and fired rounds at passing cars. At least three victims have reported minor injuries or damage to their cars.
Authorities asked people to contact police if they believe they were targeted.
Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jim Amormino said the series of shootings ended when the gunman shot himself to death as police attempted to stop him in the city of Orange.
Amormino said a shotgun has been recovered and that there may be additional weapons. In addition to the Sheriff's Department, the FBI, Santa Ana police, California Highway Patrol and Tustin police are assisting the investigation.
The suspect's alleged series of killings appeared to begin early Tuesday at a home in Ladera Ranch, where Amormino said deputies found a woman shot to death about 4:45 a.m.
Deputies were called to the house on Red Leaf Lane when someone inside reported a shooting, Amormino said. It was unclear whether anyone else was home at the time, but no other injuries were reported.
The suspect, initially described as a man in his 20s, fled the area in an SUV to Tustin, where “multiple incidents” occurred in the city and near the Santa Ana border, Amormino said.
“There’s a lot to sort out,” he told The Times. A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Tustin Police Lt. Paul Garaven said the suspect attempted to carjack multiple vehicles in Tustin, with each shooting occurring a few minutes apart.
Police received a report about 5:30 a.m. of a carjacking near Red Hill Avenue and Nisson Road near the 5 Freeway in Tustin, Garaven said.
The carjacking suspect opened fire and wounded a bystander, he said.
Soon after that, another carjacking was reported near the southbound 55 Freeway at McFadden Avenue, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. There, the suspect allegedly confronted a man in a BMW, ordered him out of the vehicle, walked him to the curb and "executes our victim," Bertagna said.
Another shooting was reported on Edinger Avenue near the Micro Center computer store in Tustin, Garaven said. Officers confirmed that another carjacking had taken place, he said.
One person was killed and another was taken to a hospital. Officers spotted the suspect in a stolen vehicle, followed him into the city of Orange and initiated a traffic stop near the intersection of East Katella Avenue and North Wanda Road, Garaven said.
The suspect then shot and killed himself, Garaven said.
Amormino said deputies were still trying to piece together a possible motive and the relationship between the suspect and victims, including the woman at the first incident in Ladera Ranch.
“Ladera Ranch is a very quiet community," Amormino said. "It’s very rare for something of this nature to occur there.”
Jason Glass said he was across the street from the Ladera Ranch crime scene, working in his garage, when between 2 and 3 a.m. he heard what he now believes were three to five gunshots. About 4 a.m., Glass said, he "heard a bunch of ruckus" — no yelling, but lots of doors slamming — before a car sped away from the house.
"I just thought somebody was being really loud and obnoxious," Glass said.Glass said a couple had lived at the home for about a year with three children. The family was quiet, he said.
“No noise ever came out of that house,” he said. “No cops ever came to that house, nothing. This is really weird.”
— Kate Mather and Hailey Branson-Potts in Los Angeles; Mike Anton in Tustin
Photo: A Tustin crime-scene investigator catalogs shell casings in the parking lot of the Micro Center computer store in Tustin on Tuesday. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times