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Suspected gunman identified in shooting rampage that left two dead in Banning

Banning police on Sunday identified the gunman who they say shot and killed two people and injured two others in apparently random attacks as he drove through the Riverside County city a day earlier.

James Paul Diaz, 34, was booked on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of shooting at a person from a vehicle and one count of shooting at an inhabited vehicle, Banning police said in a statement.

The rampage began about 11:30 a.m. Saturday when officers responding to a report of shots fired in the 700 block of East John Street found the body of a male gunshot victim, police said. The Riverside County coroner’s office identified the victim Sunday as Paul Lesh, 66, of Banning.

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A second man was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

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A witness told police the gunman was driving a white SUV.

About 11:45 a.m., police responded to another report of shots fired, from one vehicle into another, at San Gorgonio Avenue and Nicolet Street, authorities said. The female driver of the second vehicle suffered minor injuries from shattered glass. She also told police the suspect drove a white SUV.

Less than 10 minutes later, officers were dispatched on an assault-with-a-deadly weapon call at an AM/PM gas station at the intersection of 22nd and Ramsey streets, police said. Officers found a male victim who had been beaten, including with a blunt object, as he sat in his parked vehicle.

Video footage from the scene showed a man driving a white SUV, as described in the earlier incidents, police said. The beating victim was treated at a local hospital and later released.

At 12:13 p.m., Banning police responding to a report of a vehicle crashed into a wall in the 200 block of East Lincoln Street found its driver dead, and later determined he had suffered gunshot wounds, authorities said. The coroner’s office identified the victim Sunday as Benjamin Johnson, 34, of Banning.

A few minutes after that incident, Beaumont police were called about a man knocking on doors in the 700 block of American Street, authorities said. That was followed by a report of a man breaking the window of a car in the 1300 block of 8th Street.

Officers spotted and then stopped the man’s vehicle a short time later. Police arrested Diaz and recovered a weapon from his vehicle, officials said.

kim.christensen@latimes.com


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