5 shootings, 2 deaths in L.A. tied to gunman later killed in Fullerton shootout, police say
After a series of five drive-by shootings that killed two people in Los Angeles early Tuesday, the suspected gunman — who led police on a three-hour pursuit — died in a shootout with officers on an Orange County freeway, authorities said.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the civilian Police Commission on Tuesday morning that an LAPD SWAT officer fatally shot the gunman after police used their vehicles to pin the suspect’s vehicle on the 91 Freeway and he opened fire on them through his windshield.
That exchange of gunfire followed a series of shootings in which the man killed two people, wounded two others and struck the vehicle of a fifth, Moore said.
“It’s a disturbing incident of a shooting spree,” Moore said.
Moore said two of the shooting victims were Asian men, and the department is investigating whether the shootings were hate crimes amid a nationwide uptick in anti-Asian violence.
“We are very mindful of the potentiality for that, and leaning into that very actively,” Moore said.
The dead suspect was not immediately identified Tuesday.
The first shooting occurred just before 1 a.m. at Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard and was witnessed by California Highway Patrol officers, Moore said.
A man in a white Jeep pulled along another vehicle and fired multiple rounds at the driver, a Korean speaker, wounding him in the head, Moore said. He said the victim had a dashcam in his car that captured the Jeep’s license plate number, which helped police put out an alert.
About 10 minutes later, the same man arrived at a Starbucks near 28th Street and Figueroa, where a pair of newlyweds sat in line at the drive-through, police said. He backed into their car, then pulled up alongside them. After an exchange of words, Moore said, the gunman opened fire on the young couple, killing the 24-year-old husband, Alexis Carbajal, who was Latino.
The man’s Latina wife also was injured, but police were unsure whether her injuries came from glass or shrapnel or if she was also struck by gunfire.
The Department of Public Safety at USC sent alerts to the campus community about the nearby shootings, noting that neither victim was a student.
About 15 minutes later, the gunman took aim at a second Asian driver. The victim, 42-year-old Mingzhi Zhu, from South Pasadena, was driving near 7th and Figueroa streets, Moore said, when he was shot and killed. His vehicle came to a stop a short distance away.
Violence against Asian Americans has risen in recent months across the country. In Los Angeles alone, police said there were 15 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in 2020, compared with seven in 2019, marking a 114% increase. There were also nine hate “incidents” — or bigoted encounters that don’t rise to the level of a crime — compared with seven in 2019, police said.
After the second killing Tuesday, the suspect opened fire on two other vehicles. One was struck, but the driver, a white man, escaped injury, Moore said.
After LAPD officers spotted the white Jeep, a long, slow pursuit followed as the driver led police to Orange County. There, CHP officers used a spike strip to puncture the vehicle’s tires, and police boxed it in about 3:20 a.m. in Fullerton on the westbound 91 Freeway at the Raymond Avenue overpass, Moore said.
Police used a loudspeaker to call on the man to surrender, but he refused, Moore said.
Moore said the man then opened fire at officers through his windshield, and a single SWAT officer fired back. When the man opened fire again, the same SWAT officer shot back and struck the man.
The suspect was declared dead at the scene, Moore said. A handgun that police think was used in all of the shootings was recovered.
Moore said Robbery-Homicide Division detectives were investigating and looking for witnesses from the multiple scenes.
Investigators are trying to determine the gunman‘s motivations and whether he was involved in any other violent incidents in the region, Moore said.
The shooting by the SWAT officer was the 15th by LAPD personnel in 2021; six have been fatal. That compares with eight shootings, two of them fatal, at this point last year.
The gunman’s attacks in Los Angeles added to an already violent year, in which homicides and shootings are both far outpacing levels seen in recent years. Before Tuesday, the city had recorded 108 homicides this year, compared with 83 at this time last year — a more than 30% increase. There have been 445 shootings in 2021, compared with 257 at this time last year — a nearly 75% increase. Much of the increase has been driven by gangs, Moore said.
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