LAPD says weapon found at Sylmar home was used in Valley killings

LAPD says weapon found at Sylmar home was used in Valley killings
A county coroner's vehicle leaves the scene where a woman was shot to death in Pacoima on Sunday. Authorities are investigating six previous shootings for possible links to the deadly rampage. (Christina House / For The Times)

Homicide detectives believe a weapon found at the home of a man arrested over the weekend in Sylmar was used in the fatal shootings of three people in the San Fernando Valley, an LAPD spokesman said Tuesday.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith told reporters that investigators have evidence connecting 34-year-old Alexander Hernandez to three separate shootings on Sunday that claimed the lives of two women and a man and left four others wounded.


"Our detectives believe this is the guy," Smith said. "They believe they have enough evidence tying him to these cases."

Smith said while initial reports stated that two people were possibly involved in Sunday's deadly shootings, detectives now believe the gunman acted alone.

Prosecutors are expected to make a decision Tuesday on whether to charge Hernandez with Sunday's crime spree and the separate killing of two dogs a day earlier.

Smith said the department is also investigating whether Hernandez might be responsible for several other previous shootings on Los Angeles-area roadways in recent months. He declined to elaborate or to say whether detectives have evidence connecting Hernandez to those incidents.

Investigators have identified at least six shootings over the last five months that bear striking similarities to the violence on Sunday.

Smith said the motive for Sunday's killings remains a mystery.

"What would cause a person to get up on a Sunday morning and kill three completely unrelated and separate people?" Smith asked when talking to reporters.

Smith did not identify the weapon police seized at the residence, but law enforcement sources said it was a shotgun. Police have said a shotgun was used in all three of Sunday's attacks.

The shootings began just before 6 a.m. Sunday, when the gunman opened fire on a family of five driving in the 1400 block of Celis Street to the nearby Santa Rosa Catholic Church. A 23-year-old woman was killed and her parents critically injured, 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 walking near the Sylmar Recreation Center was shot and killed. Ten minutes later, a woman – identified by relatives as Gloria Esperanza Tobar, 59 – was gunned down as she was waiting for a friend before church.

Detectives said the gunman's vehicle in all of the attacks was described by witnesses as a tan- or gold-colored SUV.

Investigators with an animal-cruelty task force realized that the description of the vehicle matched that belonging to a man wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of two dogs on Saturday in the San Fernando Valley, Smith said. The task force had identified Hernandez as the suspect in the animal killing case.

Task force members alerted homicide investigators, and Hernandez was taken into custody Sunday evening by a SWAT team at his Kismet Avenue home.

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