O.C. shootings: Usually quiet neighborhoods rocked by violence

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Several usually quiet Orange County neighborhoods were rocked Tuesday morning by a series of slayings and violent carjackings that authorities said left at least four dead, including the suspect, and others wounded.

The killings appeared to begin with the shooting death of a woman on Red Leaf Lane in Ladera Ranch. Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino said someone inside the home called 911 at 4:45 a.m. and that responding deputies found a woman dead inside.

Neighbors described the area as upscale, with doctors and lawyers among the residents.

PHOTOS: Shootings at multiple locations in O.C.


David Cabada, 26, was walking his dog when he saw the yellow tape.

‘Nothing ever happens here,’ he said. ‘The worst that ever happens is somebody gets a parking ticket.’

Cabada, who works in banking, moved to Ladera Ranch two years ago from Dana Point.

‘Everybody here either has kids or dogs,’ he said. ‘Or both.’

MAP: Orange County shootings

He said he heard helicopters Tuesday morning but didn’t think it was in his neighborhood.

‘This is shocking,’ he said. ‘Especially here.’

Lisa Eminger, a homemaker, could see the home where the shooting occurred from her bedroom Tuesday morning. She woke up to the sound of helicopters and the sight of yellow crime tape about 7 a.m.

‘This is kind of surreal,’ she said.

TIMELINE: Deadliest U.S. mass shootings

Jason Glass, who lives across the street, said a couple had lived at the home for about a year 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.”

Glass said he was working in his garage Tuesday when he heard what he now believes were three to five gunshots between 2 and 3 a.m. About 4 a.m., Glass said, he ‘heard a bunch of ruckus’ — no yelling, but lots of doors slamming — before a car sped away from the house. ‘I just thought somebody was being really loud and obnoxious,’ Glass said.

Other neighbors said they were awakened by the police response. Erin Reffert and Mikael Dovsek, who live down the street, described their neighborhood as a great place to raise children. The biggest crime problem, they said, is occasional graffiti.

‘It’s super-quiet,’ Reffert, 22, said.

Authorities believe the suspect, initially described as a man in his 20s, fled the area in an SUV and headed toward Tustin, where Amormino said ‘multiple incidents’ occurred.

Tustin Police Lt. Paul Garaven said the suspect attempted to carjack multiple vehicles in Tustin, with each shooting occurring a few minutes apart.

Police received a report about 5:30 a.m. of a carjacking near Red Hill Avenue and Nisson Road near the 5 Freeway in Tustin, Garaven said.

The carjacking suspect opened fire and wounded a bystander, he said.

Soon after that, another carjacking was reported near the southbound 55 Freeway at McFadden Avenue, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. There, the suspect allegedly confronted a man in a BMW, ordered him out of the vehicle, walked him to the curb and ‘executes our victim,’ Bertagna said.

Another shooting was reported on Edinger Avenue near the Micro Center computer store in Tustin, Garaven said. Officers confirmed that another carjacking had taken place, he said.

One person was killed and another was taken to a hospital. 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, Garaven said.

A resident in the quiet Orange neighborhood just east of the 55 Freeway said he heard a pop and a short blast of a siren between 5:30 and 6 a.m.

The man, a retiree who declined to be identified, said he was reading his newspaper when he heard what turned out to be gunfire.

He went to the intersection of Villa Park Road and Wanda, at the boundary of the cities of Orange and in Villa Park — and just yards from his home. He said he saw a man’s body on its back and a line of California Highway Patrol cars blocking the area. He said he also saw a white work truck with toolboxes.

The man’s body, he said, was left uncovered for close to an hour. He couldn’t tell if the man had been shot.

Hours later, when the body was being prepared to be loaded into a coroner’s van, it appeared the man had a severe wound on the back of his head.

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. A shotgun has been recovered and that there may be additional weapons, he said.

Officials also believe the man fired at vehicles on the 55 Freeway, 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.

In addition to the Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, the CHP and the Santa Ana and Tustin police departments are assisting with the investigation.


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-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Ladera Ranch, Rick Rojas in Orange and Kate Mather in Los Angeles