Isaias Sallas was trying to make sense Saturday of the events that unfolded in the converted garage apartment in the back yard of his South Orange Avenue home the previous day.
“I’m so confused,” Sallas said.
Two men were slain and another wounded in a flurry of gunfire that broke out in Sallas’ converted garage at 3 p.m. Friday. The shooting was determined to be drug related, police said.
But Sallas, who rented the garage apartment to a man he barely knew a month ago, said he had no idea that drugs were being sold or stored a few yards from his house. When he came home in the early evening, he had to steer around police cars, ambulances and curious neighbors who watched paramedics and coroner’s officials go about their grim business.
A day later, Sallas said he, his wife and the others who rented rooms from him were still trying to piece together the tragedy and deal with police detectives who spent the day combing through the apartment for clues.
“We haven’t had a chance to talk together,” Sallas said sadly. “The police were here until 1 a.m.” Saturday.
The young man who rented the garage apartment was known only as Margarito. He often invited friends over to practice playing in a Latin band, and disappeared after the slayings, Sallas said.
The two dead men and the wounded man did not live at the house owned by Sallas, he said. Their identities were still being withheld by detectives Saturday afternoon.
The three men, Sallas said, apparently had come to the house to pick up Margarito and take him to a Laundromat. They were in the garage apartment when a group of men apparently walked into the small room and opened fire with a .45-caliber handgun. The pistol believed used in the killing was later found by police.
Witnesses said Saturday that after hearing the sharp retort of gunfire--at least 12 shots were fired--they spotted a mid-1970s, two-tone beige and orange Ford pickup truck carrying at least six men speed off. A dark-colored Chrysler LeBaron was seen speeding off after it.
Police declined to say whether they were able to locate the owner of the truck, saying only that they have not made any arrests.
Santa Ana Police Lt. Chuck Magdalena said that detectives discovered a “substantial amount of narcotics” in the garage. About $15,000 in cash also was found.
Neighbors also tried to make sense of the murders.
Bertha Stamers, who lives across the street from Sallas, said that when the shots rang out Friday afternoon, she ran to her window and saw the truck idling in the street and a man running from Sallas’ back yard. As he ran, he dropped a dark baseball cap, calmly picked it up and then leaped into the truck bed.
“I was so scared,” Stamers said. “I’ve been here for 50 years, and this is the first time anything like this has happened.”
Sallas said he bought the house because it is in a relatively peaceful part of town. Police told him to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity, warning him that they may experience another attack.
Sallas, his wife and two small children are now living in quiet terror, but are not immediately planning to move for their safety.
“There’s no place else to go,” Sallas said. “Where are we going to stay?”