Antonio Castelan, Eric Trujillo
Police say Desmond John Moses, 55, is the suspect in a deadly and fiery attack on an Inglewood family. Antonio Castelan reports from Inglewood for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012.
Police have identified a masked man who allegedly set an Inglewood house on fire and shot five members of a family, leaving two dead.
The suspect was identified as Desmond John Moses, a 55-year-old black man of Haitian descent. He allegedly had a dispute with the family and rented the home behind them, according to authorities.
The search for him continued Saturday, and authorities said they were also digging through the rubble of the fire to see if Moses' body was inside.
Moses was believed by police to be behind the shooting rampage and arson, which left a father and his 4-year-old son dead and three other family members wounded at 4 a.m. Saturday in the 4900 block of 99th Street (map).
Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said Moses lived in a back house that he set on fire before going into the front duplex where he shot the family. Both parents tried to shield their children from the gunfire, acts the chief called heroic.
"This is horrific crime. It's just inexplicable why someone would do this, no matter how deranged they may be," Fronterotta said.
"I am directly appealing to Mr. Moses to turn himself in," Fronterotta said. "At the same time, we are aggressively looking for Mr. Moses in connection with this crime."
Judy Castellanos, who has a daughter related to one of the victims, said the gunman had not paid his rent to the family. Police had been called several times in the past for disturbances, she said.
Fronterotta would not comment on the nature of the dispute between Moses and the family.
The 30-year-old father died shielding his children from the bullets fired into their home, police said.
The his 4-year-old son suffered a bullet wound to the head and died in surgery. The man's 28-year-old wife was hit in the legs, and she ran out into the street carrying the 4-year-old, collapsing after a police officer took the boy, Fronterotta said.
The mother was in critical but stable condition at UCLA Medical Center.
Two other children also suffered gunshot wounds and were also in critical but stable condition, police said.
"The fire had been started before the shooting, and then the suspect came into the house with a painter's mask on,'' said Fronterotta. "The father was in a position of shielding the children as officers came into the scene."
Police evacuated homes and urged others to remain inside behind locked doors while they searched for the gunman, who was believed to be armed and possibly hiding in a house nearby, police said.
Moses was described as 5-foot-6, and 160 pounds. He was wearing a dark baseball cap, police said
Firefighters, responding to the blaze, were forced to wait because of the possibility that the gunman was in hiding and because of fears that live wires from downed power lines could harm firefighters attempting to douse the blaze, police said.
The other victims included a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, Fronterotta said. The only one in the house not injured was an 8-year-old boy, he said.