Gunman in deadly L.A. shooting rampage had an arsenal of weapons at home, sources say

Orange cones route traffic off a freeway where multiple police vehicles are parked.
A man who went on a shooting rampage in Los Angeles on Tuesday died after exchanging gunfire with police on the 91 Freeway in Fullerton.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Los Angeles on Tuesday — killing two people and wounding two others — had an arsenal of weapons at his home and possessed a legally purchased AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, law enforcement sources told The Times as more details about the incident emerged.

The gunman, who was fatally shot by police after a standoff on the 91 Freeway in Fullerton, was identified by the Los Angeles Police Department as Carlos Lopez, 49.

On Tuesday, LAPD officials had said they recovered a handgun they believed was used in all the shootings. Police were investigating whether the weapons found in the gunman’s home were legal, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The man’s motivation for spraying bullets at five different locations remains unclear. It does not appear that he knew the victims, sources said.

The LAPD is investigating whether the shootings were hate crimes, since two of the victims were Asian — one of those who died and one who was grazed in the head by a bullet. But no determination has been made.

Investigators stand in front of a Starbucks where Alexis Carbajal was killed.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The gunman began his rampage at Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, firing multiple rounds at a man inside a car and grazing the man’s head with a bullet, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

About 10 minutes later, Moore said, the gunman pulled up to a Starbucks drive-thru near 28th and Figueroa streets, where 24-year-old Alexis Carbajal was waiting in line with his new wife. The man backed into their car, then pulled up alongside them and, after an exchange of words, opened fire on the young couple, killing Carbajal, Moore said. His wife also was injured, but police were unsure whether she was shot or hit with glass or shrapnel.

Carbajal’s family created a GoFundMe account to raise money for his funeral expenses.

“He didn’t deserve this, he was a gentle soul who always put others before himself, he could light up any room and was such a caring person,” the webpage read, adding that he left behind his wife, mother and sisters.

Within 15 minutes, Moore said, the gunman then arrived at 7th and Figueroa streets, where he shot and killed South Pasadena resident Mingzhi Zhu, 42, who was driving for Uber, according to his family’s GoFundMe page.

Zhu supported his wife, 8-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter through his Uber driving, according to the GoFundMe appeal. He once returned $400 to an elderly passenger who had left the money in the backseat, it said.

“Mingzhi was a hard working, intelligent, kind, gentle, and deeply loving person. His family is at a loss without him,” the page read. “He was an honest man who cared for other people and loved his family above all else.”

There were 15 hate crimes reported against Asian Americans in 2020, the LAPD found, up from seven in 2019 and nine the previous year.

April 17, 2021

The investigation into whether the shootings were racially motivated comes amid a nationwide uptick in anti-Asian violence.

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. There were also nine hate “incidents” — bigoted encounters that don’t rise to the level of a crime — reported in 2020, compared with seven the previous year, police said.

The gunman shot at people in two other cars — hitting one man’s Tesla and missing the other car — before fleeing from Los Angeles police in a white Jeep.

The nearly three-hour pursuit ended in Fullerton, where police used a spike strip to puncture the Jeep’s tires, then surrounded the vehicle on the 91 Freeway about 3:20 a.m.

After officers attempted to negotiate with the man, Moore said, he opened fire through his windshield.

A SWAT officer shot back and killed him, Moore said.

Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.