Los Angeles

Azusa Gunman Was on Cocaine Binge: Authorities

One witness said she heard, "pow, pows, then a rain of fire"

Friends said Wednesday that the man who shot three people in Azusa, one fatally, before being fatally wounded in a shootout with police was on a cocaine binge during the Election Day violence.

Those who knew Carlos Mendez, 45, said he was a Navy veteran who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

He'd been sober for some time and had been going to church, but after a recent bout of depression, he went on a five-day cocaine binge and began shooting up the neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.

Sonia and Manny Plascencia said they don't know what caused their friend to go on a cocaine-fueled shooting spree outside his home on West Fourth Street.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department SWAT teams were called in around 2 p.m. The neighborhood, including two polling places, was put on lockdown.

Mendez, dressed in combat gear, armed himself with several weapons, including a legally obtained assault rifle, and shot and injured two women who happened to be passing by his home.

Neighbors ran for cover.

"It was like a war zone ... One gunshot after another," said Libby Cooper.

Mendez shot and killed his next door neighbor Frances "Bill" Varney, when the 77-year-old widower stepped outside to investigate the gunfire.

"They lost a good man," said Cindy Major, the victim's friend.

Mendez was a street maintenance worker for the city of Garden Grove. He had asked for a week off on Friday. Friends said he was acting so erratic his wife called Azusa police to the home Monday night.

"They told her since there was no violence, 'we can't do nothing.' Maybe it's best you leave," said Sonia Plascencia, his friend.

Friends said Mendez's wife left the home, but returned Tuesday, shortly before the shooting.

Friends said Mendez's wife called them to go to the house to try and talk to him, but by the time they arrived, the shooting had already happened.

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