Gunman Knew Victims in California Building Attack That Killed 4: Police

Four people were killed, including a nine-year-old boy, and one woman was critically injured in the shooting on Wednesday

Two police officers stand outside an office building where a shooting occurred in Orange, Calif., March 31, 2021. The shooting killed several people, including a child, and injured another person before police shot the suspect, police said.
Jae C. Hong/AP

The gunman who killed four people and wounded a fifth at an office complex knew all the victims either through business or personally, Southern California police said Thursday.

Orange Police Lt. Jennifer Amat also revealed that the gunman had chained gates to the complex closed, forcing officers who responded Wednesday to engage him from outside.

Police recovered an automatic handgun and a backpack with pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition.

Police withheld the identities of the dead but said one was a 9-year-old boy. The others were a man and two women. The wounded victim was only identified as a woman.

The suspect, identified as Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, was also wounded and hospitalized. It was unclear whether he suffered a self-inflicted wound or was shot by police.

Wednesday’s shooting happened in the city of Orange southeast of Los Angeles. When officers arrived, shots were ringing out at the building. Police said the shooting involved the office suites of a company called Unified Homes, a mobile home brokerage.

Paul Tovar told KTLA-TV that his brother owns Unified Homes.

“He’s not answering his phone; neither’s my niece,” Tovar said. “I’m pretty scared and worried ... right now I’m just praying really hard.”

Amat said the shooting happened on both levels of the building.

Signs outside indicated a handful of businesses are located there, including an insurance office, a financial consulting firm, a legal services business and a phone repair store.

People gathered outside the building after the shooting hoping to get word about loved ones.

Charlie Espinoza also was outside the building and told The Orange County Register that he could not reach his fiancée, who works for a medical billing company.

Wednesday's shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in the city since the 1997 Caltrans shooting that left four workers and a gunman dead, Amat said.

Nationally, Wednesday's tragedy marked the third major mass shooting in as many weeks, concluding a month that saw the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16 and the Boulder supermarket mass shooting on March 22.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a tweet called the killings “horrifying and heartbreaking.”

“Our hearts are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy tonight,” he said.

Rep. Katie Porter, congresswoman from Orange County, issued a statement: “I’m deeply saddened by reports of a mass shooting in Orange County, and I’m continuing to keep victims and their loved ones in my thoughts as we continue to learn more.”

The killings followed a mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, last week that left 10 dead. A week before that, six Asian women were among eight people killed at three Atlanta-area spas.

“Enough is enough,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, tweeted. ”We have to do something about the guns on our streets.”

Cody Lev, who lives across the street from the office building, told the newspaper he heard three loud pops that were spaced out, then three more. There was a period of silence and then Lev said he heard numerous shots, followed by sirens and more shots.

A Facebook livestream posted by a resident who lives near the office appeared to show officers carrying a motionless person from the building and officers helping another person.

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.”

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.

Arturo Reyes Torres, 41, an equipment operator who had been fired six weeks earlier, killed four people and wounded others, including a police officer, before police killed him.

NBC Los Angeles/Associated Press
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