Disturbing accounts of being stalked by alleged L.A. serial killer
Witnesses have come forward to say they were stalked by a man who police say they believe is a serial killer.
Alex Hernandez, 34, has so far been charged with fatally shooting one person and trying to kill two others. Detectives have identified him as the suspect in at least five other shootings, including the three on Aug. 24. He has not entered a plea.
As the police probe of Hernandez continues, investigators are reviewing accounts of people who say they were followed in recent weeks by a driver in a gold-colored or tan SUV. In two cases, investigators suspect the killer was hunting potential victims.
In one account, two young women were driving to a late-night party in Sylmar when one noticed a large sport utility vehicle on their tail.
They tried to lose the SUV, but it kept following. Terrified, the women drove to a San Fernando Valley police station to report the incident. The SUV drove away.
The mother of one of the women who was followed told The Times that her 22-year-old daughter felt sick over the news of the killings and the thought that her life may have been in danger.
“She’s shocked. We’re all shocked,” the woman, who declined to give her name, said. “My daughter said she felt like he wanted to harm them.”
Detectives now believe the women were indeed being stalked — and, in fact, that the Aug. 10 incident marked the beginning of a 14-day stretch in which Los Angeles-area motorists were followed and sometimes shot at by a man police have labeled a serial killer. The string ended Aug. 24 in the San Fernando Valley when a shotgun-wielding man in an SUV killed three people, and wounded four others, in three separate shootings.
Nearly two weeks after the two women were pursued, Sylmar resident Adrian Gonzalez and his friend were driving to a late-night eatery near his home. Gonzalez told The Times that he noticed a large sport utility vehicle with its headlights turned off following close behind their car in the early-morning darkness.
The SUV began to shadow their every move, he said, then pulled up on their passenger side — its headlights suddenly on. The driver screamed at Gonzalez to lower the window, and at one point, asked: “Do you know what time it is, homie?”
The SUV driver had his right hand on the steering wheel and his left arm down, said Gonzalez, 24.
“I thought, ‘This guy is going to pull a gun.’ That’s when my friend floored it and we took off,” he said. “We started driving as fast as we could.”
After about 20 minutes, they were able to shake the SUV, Gonzalez said.
At the time, he hadn’t considered calling the cops. “We just followed our instincts: Let’s try to lose this guy,” he said.
Later that morning, Gonzalez walked outside and made a startling discovery. Across the street, Hernandez — his neighbor — was pulling into his driveway in his tan SUV. The vehicle looked like the SUV that had been following Gonzalez and his friend that morning, and Hernandez’s attire matched that of the SUV’s driver, Gonzalez said.
“He was wearing the same hat and the same shirt,” Gonzalez said, adding that he also wore glasses.
Gonzalez said Hernandez had lived in the neighborhood just over a year and sometimes behaved oddly. He would often sit in his SUV, sometimes well into the early-morning hours, he said.
Gonzalez said he and his brother, Albert, 26, confronted Hernandez, who acknowledged that he had followed Gonzalez and his friend.
“He said he wanted to know where we were going and what we were up to,” Gonzalez said. “We told him that was no way of approaching people and that the reason we fled was because we thought the driver was going to kill us.”
Hernandez told them he wouldn’t do anything to harm them because they were his neighbors, the brothers said.
“He said, ‘Nah, man, I don’t play around and do that,’” Hernandez said, according to Albert Gonzalez. “If I’m going to pull it, you’re not even going to see it.”
On the morning of Aug. 24, Gonzalez said, he awoke to news of the three fatal shootings.
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.
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