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Craiglist ad for Camaro sparks Downey rampage, DA says

October 29, 2012 |  7:39 pm

The shooting rampage, carjacking and kidnapping involving a Downey family had its roots in a Craigslist ad the family had placed in an attempt to sell their Chevy Camaro, prosecutors said Monday.

Authorities allege that the gunman responded to the ad, and for reasons that are still unclear, opened fire in a bizarre attack that began at the family's business and ended at their home.

Prosecutors charged a parolee Monday with multiple counts of capital murder, attempted murder, carjacking and kidnapping. Jade Douglas Harris, 30, was arrested Thursday and booked into jail Friday after eyewitnesses and independent evidence gathered by Downey police linked Harris to last Wednesday's slayings, authorities alleged.

Harris could face the death penalty if convicted on the charges, which include three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of kidnapping for carjacking, three carjacking counts, two kidnapping counts and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

In a Downey courtroom Monday afternoon, Harris sat with his head bowed. He wore blue county-issued shirt and pants and did not enter a plea.

Prosecutors allege that Harris, a convicted felon and known gang member, went to the family’s business on Cleta Street in response to a Craigslist ad for a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.

At the business, he shot and killed Josimar Rojas, 26, and Irene Cardenas Reyes, 35, who were employees of United States Fire Protection Services. He also shot Maria Fuentes, the mother of the business’ owner, authorities said. She was shot in the face and hands but survived.

Harris then allegedly forced Susana Perez Ruelas, the wife of the owner, to drive him and her 13-year-old son to their nearby home, where the Camaro was parked. At the house, he shot and killed Perez Ruelas and wounded the boy, prosecutors said.

A family friend told The Times that the 13-year-old boy pretended to be dead until after the gunman left the scene.

“He played dead to live,” a family spokeswoman, Martha Zerehi, said. The gunman “thought he killed everybody.” Zerehi said the shooter held the 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 asked, according to Zerehi. Perez tried to push the gun away to save her son, but was shot and killed, Zerehi said.

Authorities released few details about the killing or said why what started as an alleged car robbery turned so violent. “We are trying to make sense of these events,” said Downey police Lt. Dean Milligan.

According to law enforcement records reviewed by The Times, Harris is unemployed and a member of the Rollin 40s Crips and on parole for second-degree robbery.

Harris, who lives in South L.A., has previously been convicted for robbery, attempted robbery and carrying a concealed weapon, the D.A.’s office said. According to records, he was released in July and placed on parole.

The district attorney's office will decide later whether to seek the death penalty. Because of the nature of the charges, prosecutors have asked Harris to be held without bail.

The complaint also includes four special circumstance allegations--murder while lying in wait, murder in the commission of a kidnapping, murder in the commission of a carjacking and killing a witness to a crime.


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