Suspect Knew Victims, Locked Calif. Office Complex Gates Before Shooting: Cops

The violence was the third U.S. mass shooting in just over two weeks

Police officers stand outside a business building where a shooting occurred in Orange, Calif., Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Police say several people were killed, including a child, and the suspected shooter was wounded by police.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

A gunman who killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy, in a rampage at a Southern California office building knew all the victims and his motive may have involved personal or business relationships, police said.

“This was not a random act of violence,” Lt. Jennifer Amat said Thursday of the attack at a building that housed small businesses in Orange, southeast of Los Angeles.

Police later identified the deceased as Luis Tovar Sr.; daughter Genevieve Raygoza, 28; Matthew Farias, 9, and Leticia Solis Guzman, 58.

Blanca Tomayo, the mother of Farias and Raygoza, was injured. She remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Luis Tovar Jr. described his father, who had just celebrated his 50th birthday, as a giver.

"He was a hardworking guy. Always family first. Always put others in front of himself type of guy," he told NBC Los Angeles.

“Our hearts today go out to the victims, and I’m here to tell you that we’re going to do everything in our power in the Orange County District Attorney’s office to get justice for these families," District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. He said he will consider seeking the death penalty.

Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, was identified as the suspected shooter. He is in critical but stable condition. It wasn't clear whether he was wounded by police or shot himself, Amat said.

The suspect, from nearby Fullerton, was staying at a motel in neighboring Anaheim and used a rented car to arrive at the two-story office building on Lincoln Avenue, Amat said.

He chained the front and rear gates to the complex with bicycle cable locks and was spotted on security video wearing a bandana over his face, brandishing a semiautomatic handgun and hauling a backpack that contained pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition, police said.

He targeted Unified Homes, a mobile home brokerage business, authorities said.

The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Orange, southeast of Los Angeles. Police received multiple reports of gunshots and officers were on the scene within two minutes of the first call, Orange police Lt. Jennifer Amat said.

Gunfire could be heard as officers arrived. They fired at the suspect from behind the fence until the gates could be cut open. Once inside they found the victims and wounded gunman. The incident was over within several minutes, Amat said.

The wounded woman and the 9-year-old boy were found in the courtyard. Spitzer said it appeared the boy died in his mother's arms. Other victims were found in office suites. Amat said the shooting happened on both levels of the building.

Tim Smith’s home is separated from the office’s parking lot by a backyard wooden fence. He was in the back of his house when he heard a volley of three gunshots, 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 will shoot you,’” Smith, 64, recounted Thursday morning.

Smith said he heard that repeated twice more by a man’s voice and believes it was a police officer speaking. He did not hear other voices or more shots. He later peeked over the fence and saw SWAT officers marching in a line in the building’s courtyard.

“It saddens me so much,” he said. “A senseless loss of life.”

Scott Clark, who is owner of Calco Financial that is two doors down from Unified Homes, described Luis Tovar as hard-working.

“He’s there day and night,” Clark said.

Clark left his office on Wednesday, around 4:45 p.m., earlier than usual.

“I must have had an angel from God watching out for me to make me leave an hour before I usually do,” he said.

Clark said he has worked out of the building for about 21 years, and Unified Homes has been in that location for seven or eight years. He said they expanded to a second suite about a year ago, and both offices were on the second level.

Clark said he has seen about 10 people working inside Unified Homes but doesn’t know them well. He said he has chatted with Tovar, sometimes inviting him inside his own office to take a break.

Since the pandemic began, Clark said parents would often bring their children to work. He did not know anything about the 9-year-old victim and did not recognize the shooter’s name.

The suspect was charged in 2015 in Orange County with cruelty to a child and other counts. It’s not clear if the child that died was his. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and served one day in jail. All other counts were dismissed, and the conviction was expunged in 2017, said Lauren Gold, spokeswoman for the city of Anaheim.

The violence in the city of Orange was the third major mass shooting in just over two weeks. Last week a gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, and killed 10. A week before that, six Asian women were among eight people killed at three Atlanta-area spas.

Orange is about 30 miles from Los Angeles and home to about 140,000 people. Amat said the shooting was the worst in the city since December 1997, when a gunman armed with an assault rifle attacked a California Department of Transportation maintenance yard.

CORRECTION (April 4, 12:36 a.m. ET): This story previously identified Genevive Raygoza as critically injured and Blanca Tomayo as deceased. An updated statement by police clarified that Raygoza died in the shooting and Tomayo was injured and remains in critical condition.

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