Orange shooting: Gunman locked gates, knew victims, police say

Orange shooting: Gunman locked gates, knew victims, police say

The gunman who killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy, at an Orange office park locked the gates to the complex with bike cable locks and was armed with a weapon as well as pepper spray and handcuffs, police said Thursday.

Authorities said the shooting occurred inside a counseling business, Unified Homes, and the gunman and the victims were connected through business and personal ties. Wednesday’s attack was not random, they said.

Officers received a call at about 5:30 p.m. of shots fired at the business in the 200 block of West Lincoln Avenue. The officers encountered gunfire when they arrived and opened fire, Orange Police Lt. Jennifer Amat said.

Because the gates were locked, police officers responding to the scene fired through them and wounded the gunman, Amat said. Police had to use bolt cutters to get into the complex.

Officers found two victims in the courtyard, one of whom was the 9-year-old boy, and an adult woman who had also been shot and was transported to a hospital, where she remains in critical condition.

“It appears that a little boy died in his mother’s arms as she was trying to save him during this horrific massacre,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer at a news conference Thursday.

Police at the scene then found three additional victims, who were dead, including one adult woman found on an upstairs outdoor landing, one adult man inside an office, and one adult woman inside a separate office.

Police recovered a semi-automatic handgun and a backpack with pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition at the scene, “which we believe belonged to the suspect,” Amat said Thursday.

The victims’ names have not been released because their next of kin have not all been notified, she said. The suspect is a Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, a 44-year-old Fullerton man who police said a “business and personal relationship” with the victims.

Two police officers discharged their weapons at the scene, said Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district’s attorney’s office, which investigates officer-involved shootings. Both were wearing body cameras.

The Orange Police Department is conducting the investigation into the suspect and victims, Edds said, and will forward their reports to the district attorney’s office, which could bring charges against the suspect as soon as Thursday.

The district attorney’s investigation into the shooting could take “several months, up to a year,” she said. No officers were injured at the scene.

The incident — the third mass shooting in the United States in two weeks — stunned the quiet north Orange neighborhood.

Law enforcement respond to the scene of a shooting that left four people dead at an office building in Orange.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Uvaldo Madrigal was in his office at Lincoln Body & Paint, his auto shop next to the shooting site, when he heard popping sounds.

“They sounded very low,” he said, “so I didn’t think they were gunshots.”

Then, Madrigal heard about 10 shots, followed by silence. He looked outside and saw about five police cars in the middle of Lincoln Avenue and officers with their guns drawn.

He rushed to the back of his shop and told an employee to get inside. Several minutes later, the police told him and his employee that they needed to leave the area; as they did, Madrigal saw two people on stretchers being loaded into an ambulance.

“I don’t know what condition they were in,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever happened around here.”

Judging by the muffled sound of the shots, Madrigal thought the rounds were being fired indoors.

“Normally when you hear gunshots out in the open, they’re louder,” he said. “The gunshots just sounded lower; they sounded different.”

The Orange violence came a week after a gunman opened fire at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket and two weeks after a massacre at three Atlanta-area spas.

“Horrifying and heartbreaking. Our hearts are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said of the Orange shooting Wednesday night.

Arianna Barrios, a City Council member in Orange, said the community was trying to get some sense of what had happened inside the office building on Wednesday. So far, there have been few answers.

“It is absolutely astounding to have something like this happen in Orange,” she said. “But as we’ve seen across the country, we’re not alone in suffering this kind of tragedy. I think all of us are waiting to hear the why.”

Amat said the city had not seen this kind of violence since 1997, when a mass shooting occurred at a California Department of Transportation maintenance yard in the city. Five people were killed and at least two others wounded, including a police officer, when a former state employee wielding an assault rifle opened fire there.

That gunman had been recently dismissed from his job and went to his former workplace with an AK-47 assault weapon. He was killed in a shootout with police at a nearby street corner.

Video footage of Wednesday’s scene captured by OnScene.TV showed a cluster of police and fire vehicles on the block, including at least five ambulances.

Paula Shaw, who lives nearby, told OnScene she was on her computer when she heard a “bunch of popping.”

“Sure enough, somebody was shooting over at the office building,” she said, noting that she heard about 10 shots.

Neighbors said they were stunned by what happened.

Nathan Zachary, 18, and his father had been cooking fried chicken for dinner when, while scrolling through Instagram, he saw news of the shooting. The two went outside to see what was going on.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Zachary said, describing the neighborhood as “a safe, really safe area.”

He and his father stood curbside in flannel pajamas, trying to track the movement of the many police officers milling about the scene.

“Hard to sleep,” Zachary said, “unless you know what’s going on.”

Camilo Akly, 28, couldn’t pick up his younger brother, who was hanging out with a buddy in a home facing the crime scene.

So on Wednesday evening, after walking several blocks to reach his sibling, then seeing “one by one by one of the police cars pulling up, then hearing the helicopter, then watching firefighters rushing in,” he paused to try to make sense of the situation.

“You think that nothing could be going on during your evening, and all of a sudden, it changes really fast,” he said. “So much to be careful of these days.”

Other neighbors spilled onto the sidewalk, filming the commotion with their cellphones and posting their recordings on social media.

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