A targeted attack that killed four dead, including a 9-year-old boy, in an office building in southern California marked the third time in less than three weeks that the country had been hit by mass shootings.
Police say the Wednesday night suspect knew his victims and locked the entrances to the office suite in Orange, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles, before opening fire. Victims were found in different areas of the building, including the boy who was found dead in the arms of a woman believed to be his mother.
The massacre is the latest in a series of mass shootings across the country after pausing in such high-profile attacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The four victims were killed just a week after an armed man was killed Boulder, Colorado killed 10 people in a supermarket. The week before there was a shooter in the Eight people were killed in the Atlanta area, most of them women of Asian originin three spas.
Orange police received calls about a shooting at around 5:30 p.m. local time. The officers were on site within two minutes, but found that both entrances to an entrance gate were locked with a bicycle cable lock, Lt. Jen Amat at a press conference on Thursday.
The locks prevented officers from quickly entering the building while they continued to hear gunfire, Amat said. Officials opened fire on the suspect from outside the gate. She said bolt cutters brought in by sergeant, who replied minutes later, were used to break the locks.
Police searched the building and the courtyard where they found the suspect had been shot. As of Thursday afternoon, he was in critical but stable condition in a local hospital
It is unclear whether the suspect’s gunshot wounds were caused by himself or by the police, Amat said.
Police identified the suspect as Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44. He knew each of the victims, Amat said, adding the boy who died in the attack was the son of one of the victims.
“It appears that all adults were linked by either business or personal relationships,” Amat said. “This was not an accidental act of violence.”
Four people – a man, two women and the boy – were found dead. Another woman believed to be the boy’s mother was in critical condition in the hospital, police said.
Amat said the suspect walked through the building and killed a woman on an outdoor landing, a man in an office building and another woman in a separate office building, all of which were owned as a suite by Unified Homes, a mobile home agent. Amat showed a photo of the suspect at the company during a press conference Thursday afternoon, explaining that police have video footage that they are not posting of him in Unified Homes.
“It appears that a young boy died in his mother’s arms when she tried to save him during that horrific massacre,” Orange County district attorney Todd Spitzer said Thursday. “I’m here to tell you that in the Orange County District Attorney’s office we will do everything in our power to bring justice to these families.”
Spitzer said his office is still investigating the circumstances of the shooting and determining what charges would be brought. But he said he would consider applying for the death penalty.
Amat said a firearm was recovered from the scene, a semi-automatic pistol. Police did not disclose when the gun was purchased or whether the suspect legally obtained it.
A backpack containing pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition was found along with the gun, Amat said.
The police also did not say whether Gonzalez was known by law enforcement agencies or what the relationships were with the victims.
He lived in a motel in Anaheim, northwest of Orange, and used a rental car to get to Unified Homes, Amat said.
Police have not identified the victims and have yet to notify families and loved ones before their names are released.
Paul Tovar said KTLA-TV After the shooting that his brother owns Unified Homes, the mobile home agent was later exposed as the location of the shooting.
“He doesn’t answer the phone. Neither does my niece,” said Tovar. “I’m pretty scared and worried.”
Tim Smith’s house is separated from the office parking lot by a wooden fence in the back yard. He was in the back of his house when he heard a volley of three shots, then a volley of three, and a final volley of four.
“The first words I heard after the shots were fired were ‘don’t move or I’ll shoot you,” “said 64-year-old Smith on Thursday morning.
Smith said he heard this repeat twice more from a man’s voice and believed it was a police officer who spoke. He didn’t hear any other voices or more shots. He later peeked over the fence and saw SWAT officers marching in a row in the courtyard of the building.
“It makes me so sad,” he said. “A senseless loss of life.”
Cody Lev, who lives across from the office building, told the story the Orange County Register He heard three loud popping noises, then three more. There was silence, then he heard numerous shots, followed by sirens and more shots.
Uvaldo Madrigal told the story the Los Angeles Times He was next door at his dealership when the shooting started.
“They sounded very soft, so I didn’t think they were gunshots,” he told the newspaper.
He said he then heard about 10 gunshots and saw police officers with guns drawn and police cars in the middle of the street. The police later asked him and his staff to leave the area. He saw two people being taken to ambulances on stretchers. “I don’t know what condition they were in,” he told the Times. “Nothing like this has ever happened here before.”
Katie Porter, MP, who belongs to the Orange district, said she was “deeply saddened” by the shooting.
“I continue to keep the victims and their families close as we study. My team and I will continue to monitor the situation closely,” she said tweeted Wednesday evening.
Governor Gavin Newsom called the shooting “terrible and heartbreaking”.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have been hit by this terrible tragedy tonight,” he said tweeted.
Amat said there had been no “such incident in the city of Orange” since 1997 when a gunman armed with an assault rifle attacked a California Department of Transportation maintenance yard. The suspect, a machine operator who was fired six weeks earlier, killed four people and wounded others, including a police officer, before the police killed him.
Contributor: The Associated Press