O.C. shootings: No link between killer and final victim
Investigators have abandoned the theory that the 20-year-old “loner” who went on a fatal shooting rampage as he drove through the heart of Orange County last month had somehow lured his final victim to a construction parking lot where he was shot down and killed.
Detectives in Tustin said that, following the word of eyewitnesses, they believed there was some sort of connection between Ali Syed and Jeremy Lewis, a 26-year-old plumber who was last of three people the part-time college student allegedly killed in the Feb. 19 rampage.
But after checking phone records, police said Lewis’ death appears to be "a random act of violence."
The early morning shootings and carjackings began in a Ladera Ranch condominium, where Syed lived with his parents and where authorities found the body of 20-year-old Courtney Aoki, who had been fatally shot.
He later pulled a man from a vehicle in Tustin and shot him “execution-style” and then gunned down Lewis, authorities said.
The violence ended a short time later when Syed rolled out of a stolen truck he was driving and shot himself to death with a shotgun.
Witnesses told investigators that Lewis received a phone call before the shooting and reportedly said: "I'll be there in a minute."
Lewis, who was sitting in his car outside work, pulled out of the employee parking lot and drove to another lot nearby. That led authorities to suspect that Syed was targeting Lewis and drawing him out.
In an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for phone records, Det. Colton Kirwan wrote, based on those eyewitness accounts, that on the morning of Feb. 19, Syed "was specifically trying to locate Jeremy Lewis."
The affidavit, quoting witnesses, lays out the following scenario:
Syed, according to what witnesses told investigators, commanded Lewis to "come out," pointing a shotgun at him. Lewis complied, turned off his car engine and stepped out.
But Syed ordered him back into the car and told him to restart the engine. Lewis complied.
Once Lewis got out of the vehicle the second time, Syed told him to "go away." Lewis started to back away from Syed, and turned to run.
He only made it about 15 feet before he was hit by gunfire. Limping, Lewis made it only a few feet further before Syed fired again. Lewis fell to the ground.
A bystander called for the construction site foreman, Shane Caporaso, who came over and tried to talk with Syed. Syed told Caporaso to "go away" and shot at him two times.
Syed got into a work truck and sped away.
--Rick Rojas and Nicole Santa Cruz
Photo: Jeremy Lewis. Credit: Department of Motor Vehicles.