O.C. shooting suspect identified as college student with no record
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Orange County sheriff’s officials on Tuesday identified the suspect in series of fatal shootings and carjackings as Ali Syed, a 20-year-old community college student with no criminal record.
Authorities don’t have a motive for the shootings, which began with the slaying of a woman at Syed’s south Orange County home, spread north in a series of random and deadly carjackings, and ended with his suicide in the city of Orange.
Syed was described as an unemployed man who was taking a class at Saddleback College. He had no criminal record and was living with his parents on Red Leaf Lane in Ladera Ranch, sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino said.
Deputies were called to their home about 4:45 a.m. after his parents reported a shooting, Amormino said. Responding deputies found a woman dead inside who had been shot multiple times.
The relationship between the woman and Syed was not yet known, Amormino said, although she was not related to the suspect. The woman has not yet been identified.
Family members, including children, were at the home at the time of the shooting, Amormino said, but no other injuries were reported.
Syed fled the area and headed toward Tustin, where Amormino said ‘multiple incidents’ occurred. The first, authorities said, occurred near Red Hill Avenue and the 5 Freeway, where authorities received a report of a man with a gun about 5:10 a.m. The suspect attempted a carjacking, Tustin police Lt. Paul Garaven said, opened fire and wounded a bystander.
About five minutes later, the suspect stopped the BMW near the 55 Freeway in Santa Ana, officials said.
Around that time, authorities also received reports about a man shooting at moving vehicles on the 55 Freeway. Officials believe the man fired either while driving or after he stopped and got out of his vehicle. At least three victims have reported minor injuries or damage to their cars, and investigators asked that others who believe they may have been fired upon to contact police.
Shortly after, another shooting and carjacking was reported on Edinger Avenue near the Micro Center computer store in Tustin, Garaven said. One person was killed and another was taken to a hospital.
Co-workers identified the men as plumbers who were working at the under-construction Fairfield Inn on Edinger Avenue.
Officers spotted the suspect in a stolen vehicle, followed him into the city of Orange and initiated a traffic stop near the intersection of East Katella Avenue and North Wanda Road, Garaven said.
The suspect then shot and killed himself, authorities said. A shotgun was recovered, but officials said other weapons might have been involved earlier.
In Orange, financial planner Kenneth Caplin said he had a clear view of the gruesome drama that unfolded Tuesday on the street outside his office.
Although the street had been blocked, Caplin parked farther away and persuaded an officer to let him walk to his office. He arrived shortly before 7 a.m., about an hour after the shooting. From a conference room window, Caplin saw the police investigators at work, a white work truck up on a curb, and the suspect lying dead on the ground, with blood streaked across the pavement.
‘It’s scary.... This just happened right here,’ Caplin said hours later, as a team in biohazard suits scrubbed away at the street in an afternoon drizzle. ‘It’s ludicrous.’
Caplin, 71, said he is a pistol instructor for the NRA. What happened Tuesday only affirmed for him the need to stay armed.
‘He had no chance,’ he said of one of shooting victims. ‘The bad guys are armed; the good guys aren’t. If I was in that position -- with a CCW [concealed weapon] -- that wouldn’t have happened.’
He added: ‘Innocent people -- like what happened today -- don’t have a chance.’
He said he was relieved the perpetrator ended it by taking his own life. ‘That’s a bad guy,’ he said of the man he saw splayed on the street. ‘Doesn’t bother me at all.’
Amormino said deputies were still trying to piece together a possible motive and the relationship between the suspect and victims, including the woman at the first incident in Ladera Ranch. Authorities said they had received no previous calls to the residence.
Glass, the neighbor, said a couple lived at the home with three children. The family was quiet, he said.
“No noise ever came out of that house,” he said. “No cops ever came to that house, nothing. This is really weird.”
In addition to the Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, the CHP and the Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin police departments are assisting with the investigation.
Craig Heising, a project superintendent at the Tustin construction site, described the slain plumber as a ‘good guy’ with a ‘good heart.’
‘He showed up every day, on time, ready to do his share of work. When I saw police pull the yellow tarp over him, I was just overwhelmed by the senseless of it,’ Heising said. ‘It’s a classic case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.’
Bertagna, the Santa Ana police official, was asked if he had seen anything like this before. “Last week,’ he replied.
Bertagna was referring to the series of shootings attributed to former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner, who is suspected of killing four people and wounding three others before he died in a shootout with police near Big Bear.
‘It’s not something you see very often,’ Bertagna said.
— Kate Mather and Hailey Branson-Potts in Los Angeles, Anh Do and Mike Anton in Tustin, Nicole Santa Cruz in Ladera Ranch, Rick Rojas in Orange
Top photo: Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators work the scene at a shooting on Red Leaf Lane in Ladera Ranch. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times
Lower photo: Ali Syed