ORANGE (CNS) - A 44-year-old man accused of gunning down four people, including a 9-year-old boy, in a shooting rampage in an office complex in Orange was charged today with four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, making him eligible for the death penalty.
The charges against Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez include a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders and two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Gonzalez, who was shot by police in the courtyard of the building at 202 W. Lincoln Ave., is scheduled to be arraigned from his hospital bed this afternoon. Police allege he was acquainted either personally or professionally with all the victims and specifically targeted the company.
Orange police on Friday identified three of the four victims as 28-year-old Jenevieve Raygoza, 50-year-old Luis Tovar, and 9-year-old Matthew Farias. ABC7 reported the fourth victim was Leticia Solis.
The boy's mother, identified by Channel 7 as Ismeralda Tamayo and by KTLA5 as Blanca Tamayo, remains hospitalized in critical condition. A GoFundMe has been set up to help the child's family pay for funeral costs.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a Thursday news conference, “It appears that a little boy died in his mother's arms as she tried to save him during this horrific massacre.''
The shooting took place at the business Tovar co-owned with his wife, Unified Homes, a real estate company selling manufactured homes. KTLA reported that Raygoza was Tovar's daughter and worked for her father's business, and that the suspect's wife once worked for the company.
The first of multiple 911 calls came in seconds before 5:35 p.m. Wednesday, according to Orange Police Department Lt. Jennifer Amat. The caller said a man was shooting into a business from across the street, she said. The first officers arrived on scene at 5:36 p.m.
Police were initially unable to enter due to bicycle cable locks that were used to secure the north and south gates of the courtyard from the inside, Amat said.
Two officers spotted the suspect in the courtyard, and the shooting that left the suspect wounded happened through the gate before they were able to get inside, Amat said.
“It is our understanding the suspect was firing toward officers,'' Amat said at a Thursday afternoon briefing.
A sergeant who responded to the scene had bolt cutters in the squad car that officers used to lop off the locks, she said.
After officers gained access to the courtyard, they tended to the suspect and the boy's mother, both of whom were hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
Officers then fanned out through the complex and found three more deceased victims, Amat said. One woman was found on an upstairs outdoor landing; one man was found inside an office building; and another woman was found inside a separate building.
Officers recovered a semi-automatic handgun inside the complex, along with a backpack containing pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition believed to belong to the suspect, Amat said.
Gonzalez, whose last known address was in Fullerton, had recently been living out of a motel room in Anaheim, Amat said, and arrived at the business in a rental car.
Other details on Gonzalez's background were not provided, but Amat said the “preliminary motive is believed to be related to a business and personal relationship which existed between the suspect and all of the victims.''
“It appears all of the adults were connected through either a business or personal relationship, and this was not a random act of violence,'' she said. “... To reiterate, this appears to be an isolated incident, and we believe everybody knew each other, whether through a business or personal relationship.''
Spitzer said the suspect “made the decision to use deadly force'' to resolve dispute and “he will suffer and face the consequences.''
Gonzalez's attorney, Ken Morrison, an assistant public defender, cautioned authorities against releasing too many details about the shootings.
“Horrible tragedies like this pose the greatest test of our system of justice and whether the constitutional due process protections and fair trial rights afforded to us all will be strictly adhered to,'' Morrison told City News Service on Friday.
“The district attorney has indicated a desire to avoid some of the outrageous illegal due process violations made by his office in the past and to do everything in his power to ensure justice for all is truly served,'' Morrison said. “If he's sincere about respecting the judicial process, I expect that means he and his office will refrain from any more public statements that involve speculation or releases any more inflammatory details that might serve to influence or taint the potential jury pool and inhibit the ability to have a fair trial in this county. The public has already been provided appropriately sufficient general information about what has occurred. Investigative details must be guarded so that this matter is not tried in the news media but in a court of law. We all need to proceed carefully.''
According to Orange County Superior Court records, the suspect, listed as Aminadab Gaxiola, was charged in April 2015 with misdemeanor counts of child abuse and endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and battery in a case in which he allegedly assaulted a boy in his care or custody with an umbrella on March 31, 2015, in Anaheim.
The child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and dissuading a witness counts were dismissed on Nov. 30, 2015, and the battery charge was dismissed on Sept. 26, 2017, because of a law that allows for the expunging of convictions if a defendant clears probation successfully.
The shooting drew a heavy law enforcement presence with more than a dozen police cars and a SWAT vehicle at the building, including fire engines from multiple fire departments. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also sent agents to the scene, as did the District Attorney's Office.
Amat said the city had not seen such violence since 1997, when five people were killed and two others wounded when a state employee opened fire at the Caltrans facility near Batavia Street and Taft Avenue. Arturo Reyes Torres, 41, of Huntington Beach, was shot and killed by police a short distance away from the maintenance yard.
Police Chief Tom Kisela, who worked that case, said it was “just as horrific and challenging'' whether the mass killing happened at the beginning of his tenure or near his July retirement date.
“It's just a horrible, tragic event,'' he said. “Thank God, we don't experience these types of incidents often.''
It was the country's third mass-casualty shooting since March 16, when a gunman shot and killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, at three spas in the Atlanta area. Six days later, a man shot and killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
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