One of the victims of a seemingly random killing during a shooting and carjacking spree that left four dead in Orange County last month indeed had no relationship to the shooter, police said Tuesday.
Construction worker Jeremy Lewis died during an hour-long series of shootings that ended when alleged killer Ali Syed, 20, shot himself.
Syed first killed Courtney Aoki in his bedroom at his parents' Ladera Ranch townhome on Feb. 19, police said. Then he proceeded to drive through several Orange County cities and fire his shotgun at other people, steal two cars, and kill both 69-year-old Melvin Edwards and Lewis, who was 26.
A search warrant and affidavit submitted Feb. 25 to an Orange County Superior Court judge by the Tustin Police Department – in an effort to get cell phone records – showed that a witness said Syed contacted Lewis on his phone just before shooting him to death.
The document, written by Tustin Detective Colton Kirwan, states that it appeared Syed was specifically trying to find Lewis that morning.
But on Tuesday police said that an investigation of the cell phone records showed there was no call and no connection between Syed and Lewis, who lived in Fullerton.
"Investigators have reviewed the records and have determined there were no phone calls made between Syed and Lewis prior to this incident," a press release from Tustin police states. "At this point in the investigation, there does not appear to be any relationship between Lewis and Syed and the murder appears to have been a random act of violence."
A witness and co-worker of Lewis' had reported to police that Lewis had pulled into a parking space at a Micro Center store in Tustin at 5:30 a.m., ready for work, the affidavit stated. A few minutes later, Lewis received a call on his cell phone and stated, "I'll be there in a minute," the witness said.
Lewis drove to an adjacent parking lot and pulled up next to Ali Syed, who was parked and waiting. Syed could be heard to say "come out" to Lewis, according to the affidavit.
The witness said he saw Syed pointing a shotgun at Lewis, whom he ordered to start his car then to "go away."
As Lewis ran from the car, Syed shot him twice. Lewis collapsed.
"Based on the phone call received by Jeremy Lewis, and the fact that Lewis drove his vehicle to meet the suspect, it became apparent that that suspect had lured the victim to this location to kill him," the affidavit stated. "It was unclear how Lewis and Ali Syed knew each other, and it was unclear if there were any other possible accomplices involved in the crime."
After Lewis was shot, construction foreman Shane Caporaso confronted Syed, who shot at the man and stole his 2006 Chevrolet work truck, eventually driving away onto the 55 Freeway.
Minutes later, when police closed in on him in the nearby city of Orange, Syed exited Caporaso's truck and shot himself to death.
Police noted that Syed stayed in the Tustin area during his shooting spree, leaving after he killed Lewis.
"Based on Ali Syed's direction of travel and the time spent driving around the city of Tustin, it appears that Ali Syed was specifically trying to locate Jeremy Lewis," the affidavit stated.
Police said last week that they were looking at the connection between Lewis and Syed.
"We suspect there might be a connection between the suspect and the victim," Tustin Lt. Paul Garaven said last week. "But we’re not releasing what led up to issuing the search warrants."
Now police no longer believe there is a connection, and the Tustin Police Department said Tuesday it "will continue to follow up on any leads."
Caporaso said he had believed the shooting was random.
"I thought it looked like a carjacking. I can't believe they knew each other," Caporaso said.
Police reviewed 18 days of Lewis' and Syed's phone records.
The affidavit stated the records might also reveal "more information with regards to additional suspects who may have assisted Ali Syed with the planning and/or the commission of the crime."
The document also that Syed purchased ammunition from a Big 5 Sporting Goods store on Feb. 8.
Police still have not discussed any relationship between Aoki and Syed, and it's not clear why she was in his parents' home.