GARDEN GROVE (CNS) - A 33-year-old Garden Grove man suspected in a violent two-city crime spree that left four people dead and two others injured was scheduled to be in court today.
Zachary Castaneda was jailed in lieu of $1 million bail in connection with the Wednesday night rolling melee that lasted more than two hours and stretched Garden Grove police resources to the limit as they responded to call after call of robberies, assaults and homicides. He was scheduled to be in court today, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department jail records.
Castaneda was arrested around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday outside a 7-Eleven store, where he allegedly fatally stabbed a security guard -- who did not work at the convenience store -- and stole his gun.
Police were continuing to piece together details of the crime spree and trying to determine what prompted it. Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said Castaneda, a documented gang member with a violent past, has not cooperated with investigators.
“He remained violent with us through the night,” Whitney said. “He never told us why he did this.”
Whitney stressed, however, “There was no indication this was a hate crime.”
Wednesday's crime spree began around 4:10 p.m., when police received a report of a burglary at an apartment complex in the 12100 block of Jentges Avenue in Garden Grove. Police had not yet responded to that call when they received a report at 4:23 p.m. of an armed robbery at a nearby bakery in the 13000 block of Chapman Avenue, Whitney said. No one was injured in that robbery, which was carried out by a man with a knife and possibly a handgun.
The suspect then allegedly returned to the Jentges Avenue apartment building shortly after 5 p.m., was confronted by the two victims of the earlier burglary and repeatedly stabbed both of them, according to Whitney. The men, aged 62 and 63, were found by responding officers, one on the balcony and another inside the apartment. The victim inside was pronounced dead at the scene, while the one on the balcony was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where he died.
Whitney said Castaneda lived in the same apartment building, in a unit adjacent to the one where the killings occurred.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m., an armed robbery was reported at a check- cashing business in the 12800 block of Harbor Boulevard, allegedly by the same suspect, who was reported to have been armed with a knife, according to Whitney. No one was injured in that crime, he said.
About 20 minutes after that, a 54-year-old female employee was stabbed multiple times during a robbery at an insurance business in the area of Harbor and Garden Grove boulevards. The woman was conscious and breathing when taken to a hospital, and she is expected to survive, although with extensive injuries, Whitney said.
Minutes later, at 6:09 p.m., a 44-year-old man who was pumping gas at a Chevron station at Harbor Boulevard and Banner Drive had his nose nearly severed and was also stabbed in the back after getting into some type of dispute with the suspect who was putting gas into his gray Mercedes-Benz. Whitney said that attack was carried out with what were described as a pair of machetes.
At about 6:15 p.m., the suspect allegedly fatally stabbed a 39-year- old man just outside a Subway sandwich shop in the 3800 block of First Street in Santa Ana before going to a 7-Eleven across the street. At the convenience store, he fatally stabbed a 58-year-old security guard, who was not working at the store, Whitney said. After attacking the man from behind, the suspect used a large knife to cut the guard's gun from his belt.
Plainclothes Garden Grove officers spotted the suspect's Mercedes outside the 7-Eleven and called for back-up from Santa Ana police. About a minute later, the suspect, who was armed with a knife and a handgun, emerged from the store and was ordered by officers to drop his weapons. The suspect complied and was taken into custody, Whitney said.
Police originally said the suspect and the four slain victims were all Hispanic males. On Thursday, however, a police spreadsheet indicated two of the victims were white -- one of the men in the Jentges apartment and the victim inside the 7-Eleven.
Robbery was believed to be the primary motive for the attacks, although police said the suspect did not attempt to rob the victim at the Chevron gas station.