A man locked gated entries into a Southern California office building before opening fire, killing four, including a 9-year-old boy, officials said Thursday.
The incident Wednesday evening in Orange, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles, was the third high-profile mass shooting in the nation in less than three weeks and targeted a business in the building, Unified Homes, a mobile home broker, police said.
The Orange Police Department identified the suspect as Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44. He knew each of the victims, Lt. Jen Amat said, adding the boy who died in the attack was the son of one of the victims.
“It appears all of the adults were connected either by business or a personal relationships,” Amat said. “This was not a random act of violence.”
Amat said officers responded quickly to the scene but found two gated courtyards allowing entry to the building were locked from the inside using a bicycle cable lock. Officers heard gunshots as they responded and fired at the suspect from outside the gate.
When bolt cutters were brought to the scene, they made their way into the courtyard and building and found the suspect injured. He is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.
Four people – a man, two women and a 9-year-old boy – were found dead in various areas of the building. The boy was found in arms of who officials believe was his mother in the courtyard outside. She had also been injured and is in the hospital in critical condition, police said.
“It appears that a little boy died in his mother’s arms as she was trying to save him during this horrific massacre,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a Thursday news conference. “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.”
It was unclear whether the suspect’s gunshot wounds were self-inflicted or from police, Amat said.
The shooting comes just a week after a gunman in Boulder, Colorado, killed 10 people at a supermarket. The week before that, a gunman in the Atlanta-area killed 8 people, most women of Asian descent, at three spas.
Here’s what we know:
What happened during the shooting?
The Orange Police Department said in a Facebook post that officers responded to a call of shots fired around 5:30 p.m. “Officers arrived as shots were being fired and located multiple victims at the scene including fatalities. An officer involved shooting occurred,” the post said.
Amat said the suspect made his way through the building, killing a woman in an outdoor landing upstairs in the building, a man in an office building and another woman in a separate office building, all owned as a suite by Unified Homes, a mobile home broker.
The bicycle cable lock that was placed on two entries to a courtyard for the building prevented police from entering the building immediately, but Amat said officers opened fire at the suspect from outside.
Spitzer said officers could hear bullets being fired when they got to the scene but were impeded by the locked gates. They fired at the suspect from outside the gates before bolt cutters were brought to the scene, allowing them entry.
Inside, officers found the suspect injured. He is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.
Cody Lev, who lives across the street from the office building, told the Orange County Register he heard three loud pops that were spaced out, then three more. There was silence, then he heard numerous shots, followed by sirens and then more shots.
Uvaldo Madrigal told the Los Angeles Times he was next door at his auto shop when the shots began.
“They sounded very low, so I didn’t think they were gunshots,” he told the newspaper.
He said he then heard about 10 shots and saw multiple police officers with their guns drawn and police cars in the middle of the street. Police later told him and his employees to leave the area. He saw two people being loaded into ambulances on stretchers. “I don’t know what condition they were in,” he told the Times. “Nothing like this has ever happened around here.”
Who are the victims?
Police have not identified the victims of the shooting, which included a 9-year-old, as of Thursday morning.
Amat said officials were still working to notify the families of those killed before their identities were made public. She said each of the victims was known by the suspect through business or personal relationships, though she did not elaborate on what those relationships were.
“This was not a random act of violence,” Amat said.
Photos appear to show the building housed an insurance company, a real estate company and a property management company, among other businesses.
Paul Tovar told KTLA-TV that his brother owns a business there, Unified Homes, a mobile home broker. “He’s not answering his phone, neither’s my niece,” Tovar said. “I’m pretty scared and worried.”
Who is the suspect?
Police identified the suspect as Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44. Amat said one gun was recovered from the scene, a semi-automatic handgun.
She said Gonzalez appeared to target specific people at the business as each victim had a personal and business relationship with the suspect.
Police did not say whether Gonzalez was known by law enforcement or when he obtained the firearm.
How have officials reacted?
Rep. Katie Porter, whose district includes Orange, said she was “deeply saddened” by reports of the shooting.
“I’m continuing to keep victims and their loved ones in my thoughts as we continue to learn more. My team and I will continue to monitor the situation closely,” she tweeted.
Gov. Gavin Newsom called the shooting “horrifying and heartbreaking.” “Our hearts are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy tonight,” he tweeted.
Is this the only mass shooting since Boulder?
In between the Boulder shooting and the shooting in Orange on Wednesday, there have been 14 mass shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The archive defines mass shooting as four or more people shot or killed, not including the shooter. The archive does not exclude shootings based on the circumstances or where they occurred, such as including those not only in public places.
On Wednesday, two people were also killed and three were injured in a shooting in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post reported the shooting stemmed from a dispute between two groups and that police were still searching for a suspect or suspects.
Amat said there hadn’t been an “incident like this in the city of Orange since 1997,” referencing when a gunman armed with an assault rifle attacked a California Department of Transportation maintenance yard. The suspect, an equipment operator who had been fired six weeks earlier, killed four people and wounded others, including a police officer, before police killed him.
Contributing: The Associated Press