Two men were shot to death Friday and another man was wounded when an apparent dispute over drugs sparked a bloody gunfight inside a converted garage apartment, the city’s second fatal shoot-out in as many days.
“It looks like it was some type of narcotics transaction that probably went awry,” said Santa Ana Police Lt. Robert Helton.
Helton said a preliminary search of the garage uncovered two brick-size packages of an undetermined drug and an estimated $15,000 in cash in a large paper bag.
The shootings, which appeared to be the city’s first drug-related homicides of the year, came on the heels of Thursday’s gun battle at Alona Park in which a 17-year-old suspected gang member was killed and two others were wounded.
Friday’s shootings occurred about 3 p.m. in the garage at the rear of 1446 S. Orange Ave. Helton said police were summoned by the occupants of the house in front who heard gunshots and saw an injured man crawl out of the garage and collapse on the sidewalk.
Witnesses said they saw at least two men run from the garage area and get into a brown or beige 1976 pickup truck, which sped away. Police said they want to question the occupants of the truck, which has a license plate of 4B95808.
Cesar Flores, 34, who lives next door to the site of the shooting, said he was outside cleaning his car when he was startled by more than a dozen gunshots.
“I saw a couple of guys run to a brown truck,” said Flores. “They looked really frightened.”
Less than a minute after the truck drove off, Flores said, a beige sedan parked in front of the house and containing several occupants also sped away.
“They looked frightened too,” he said.
It was unclear what role, if any, the occupants in the sedan played in the shooting, police said.
“We don’t really know what we have yet,” Helton said.
No arrests were made, he added.
When police arrived, they found one man in his mid-20s dead from gunshot wounds to his chest on the floor of the carpeted garage, Helton said.
Two other men were found with gunshot wounds. One, also in his mid-20s, had been shot in the chest. He was later pronounced dead at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana. The other, in his mid-30s, was shot in the leg and was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange. His condition was not immediately known.
None of the victims was identified.
Inside the white, wood-framed garage, police found numerous shell casings that appeared to have come from two different handguns. The bag of money and the packages of narcotics were found on a coffee table.
One weapon, a .45-caliber handgun, was recovered at the scene. Helton said shell casings found in the garage seemed to indicate that a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun was also fired.
Neighbors said they have had no problems from the people who lived in the garage or the house in front.
“They seemed like peaceful people,” said Ismael Robles, 25, who lives across the street.
Martin Perez, 23, another resident of South Orange Avenue who was standing with friends and watching as police roped off the crime scene, said most of the people on the block were “shocked” by the shooting.
“Nothing like this has ever happened here,” he said.
Many residents said they often heard a rock ‘n’ roll band practicing in the garage.
“They played Spanish music,” Perez said.
Some residents said the occupants of the garage had a large number of visitors.
* SLAYING ARRESTS
Three teens held in Alona Park gang gunfight that killed boy. B5