A Sylmar man who was named as a suspect in Sunday’s string of fatal shootings in the San Fernando Valley was charged with murder and attempted murder Tuesday in connection with two previous shootings on Los Angeles-area roadways.
Alexander Hernandez, 34, was charged in a fatal shooting Thursday in Pacoima and two counts of attempted murder in a Friday shooting in West Hollywood, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced.
He was also charged with three counts of animal cruelty in the shootings of three dogs, two of which died, in Pacoima on Saturday.
Hernandez was not charged in connection with the three separate shootings early Sunday in the San Fernando Valley. LAPD officials have identified him as their sole suspect in those shootings.
Hernandez was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon, but the hearing was postponed until Wednesday afternoon after he refused to leave his jail cell, authorities said.
Los Angeles Sheriff's Det. Gary Sica said the defendant "voluntarily refused to come out of his cell to appear in court, which prompted the judge to issue a warrant so that he will be present in court tomorrow."
Detectives have identified at least six shootings over the last five months that bear striking similarities to the violence Sunday.
Among them are two incidents that are named in Tuesday's charges. In the first, Gildardo Morales, 48, was found dead Thursday, slumped over the wheel of his truck at a Pacoima intersection, his engine still running.
On Friday, a couple driving home Friday from Universal City noticed a tan or gold SUV alongside them, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Bowman said. They briefly lost sight of the vehicle, but later saw the SUV driving behind them with its lights off, Bowman said.
At Santa Monica Boulevard and Gardner Street, the SUV pulled up next to their vehicle and someone opened fire. The couple were not hit, but their Toyota was damaged by three shotgun blasts, Bowman said.
An LAPD spokesman said earlier Tuesday that homicide detectives believe a weapon found at Hernandez's home in Sylmar was used in Sunday's fatal shootings in the San Fernando Valley that claimed the lives of two women and a man and left four others wounded.
“Our detectives believe this is the guy,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. “They believe they have enough evidence tying him to these cases.”
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 that 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.
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 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.
Tuesday's charges mean that prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Hernandez, the district attorney’s office said. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made later, the office said.