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'Person of interest' in Valley shootings suspected of killing dogs

A man seen as 'a person of interest' in three Valley killings over the weekend was arrested in another case

A man considered by detectives as "a person of interest" in three San Fernando Valley killings over the weekend has been arrested in connection with a separate case involving the fatal shootings of two dogs, Los Angeles police said Monday.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith identified the man as Alexander Hernandez, 34. Hernandez was taken into custody by SWAT officers at his home in Sylmar late Sunday and was booked on an animal-cruelty charge, Smith said.

Hernandez was taken into custody after detectives realized that descriptions of the suspect and the vehicle in the deadly shootings matched those of a man wanted in connection with the animal-cruelty case, Smith said.

A weapon was recovered from the home, Smith said.

Sources familiar with the probe said the weapon was a shotgun. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about details of the ongoing investigation. Police said Sunday they believed a shotgun was used in all three killings.

Online jail records showed Hernandez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He has been booked only on the animal cruelty charge, not in connection with Sunday's killings.

Smith said detectives now believe that the gunman involved in Sunday's killings of two women and one man in separate incidents acted alone. He said police also are trying to determine whether Sunday's killings are connected to other unsolved shootings in recent days.

He said the animal cruelty allegations stem from an incident on Saturday in which a man shot and killed two dogs in the San Fernando Valley.

Law enforcement sources said members of the family who owned the dogs told police they recognized the man who shot the dogs. The family members said he was driving a tan SUV that broke down by their house earlier in the week, and that his name was Alex, the sources said.

Detectives with an animal-cruelty task force who were investigating the case alerted homicide investigators when they discovered that witnesses in Sunday's fatal shootings had identified a similar vehicle as being involved, Smith said. 

Police said Sunday they were looking for a tan SUV in connection with the Valley shootings.

Detectives immediately began surveillance on Hernandez and the Kismet Avenue home where he lived, sources familiar with the investigation said. He was arrested at 9:15 p.m. Sunday and booked at 3:36 a.m., police said.

Authorities have yet to identify the victims in Sunday's shootings.

The shootings began just before 6 a.m. when a family of five was driving in the 1400 block of Celis Street to the nearby Santa Rosa Catholic Church.

There, a 23-year-old woman was killed and her parents left in critical condition when shots rang out at 5:50 a.m., police said. Her two siblings suffered minor injuries, possibly from glass or metal fragments.

Then at 6:35 a.m., a 29-year-old man was killed in the 13000 block of Borden Avenue. He was apparently looking for recyclables at the Sylmar Recreation Center and was walking when shots were fired.

Family and friends identified the third victim, who was shot to death in the 12900 block of Filmore Street at 6:45 a.m., as 59-year-old Gloria Esperanza Tobar.

Tobar was gunned down as she was waiting for a friend so they could attend church.

kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

For breaking crime news, follow @katemather and @lacrimes

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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