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TimesOC: As Orange County reopens, tragedy strikes a quiet city

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, April 2. I’m Ben Brazil on rotation with my colleagues, editors John Canalis and Carol Cormaci, to bring you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

For a year now, COVID-19 has been the central antagonist of the country. Most other problems paled in comparison to the deadly, world-consuming pandemic.

But now as vaccines are distributed, cases decline and the economy begins to reopen, we are reminded of another problem, a familiar enemy — gun violence.

On Wednesday evening, a gunman killed four people, including a child, in the usually quiet city of Orange. It was reportedly the worst shooting in the city since 1997.

Police said Thursday that the suspect, 44-year-old Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez of Fullerton, entered the office building of the business, Unified Homes, armed with a semiautomatic gun, pepper spray and handcuffs.

A photo of alleged Orange mass shooting suspect Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The shooter and another victim are being treated in a hospital.

The attack was not random. Authorities said Gonzalez knew the victims through business and personal ties, according to an L.A. Times article from Anh Do, Hannah Fry, Ruben Vives, Matthew Ormseth and Hayley Smith.

O.C. Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said that it appeared a 9-year-old boy died in the arms of a woman who was trying to save him.

This is the third mass shooting in the country in the last two weeks, following the massacres in Atlanta and Colorado.

Four people, including a child, were killed Wednesday evening and a fifth person was injured in a shooting in Orange.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The shooting came just as Orange County entered the Orange tier of the state’s reopening guidelines on Wednesday.

“Horrifying and heartbreaking,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday night. “Our hearts are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy.”

The Times Editorial Board on Thursday published a scathing commentary on the country’s longstanding gun crisis.

“But the motive is less significant than the act, and the use of a firearm, and the fact that four people slaughtered in a hail of gunfire is not a rare occurrence in this country, as it is in most of the rest of the world,” the board wrote.

“Because here in the land of the free, we accept such tragedies with ‘thoughts and prayers’ and demands for change. But sympathy isn’t tangible, and demands get you nowhere without action and the marshaling of political power.”

Residents watch as police respond to the scene of a mass shooting in Orange.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

NEWS

— A new COVID vaccination site opened at the O.C. fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. The site is opening as vaccine eligibility expands later this month.

— Grandparents who were recently vaccinated are able to reunite with their families after a year in quarantine.

— Since the Orange County Sheriff’s Department suspended visitations in March 2020 due to the pandemic, family members and friends of inmates haven’t been able to visit their loved ones in jail. But on Friday, the department reopened limited visitations.

— A Huntington Beach resident self-published his first children’s book, “Frankenbots: Stu Saves the World.”

—Several Orange County businesses are donating food and portions of their sales to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

— A Huntington Beach man and convicted sex offender faces new charges of child molestation. The man is accused of meeting his alleged victims while working in a literacy program at a Boys & Girls Club.

— A man was convicted of murdering an 81-year-old Newport Beach man.

SPORTS

— The Angels have agreed to a five-year contract extension with infielder David Fletcher.

— Albert Pujols has dedicated himself to working with children with Down syndrome.

— The Edison High School baseball team defeated Huntington Beach after gaining an early lead.

ARTS

— The Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn. and LOCA Arts Education will live-stream events throughout April for the public to learn how to paint.

OPINION

— Celebrating Easter can be complicated but meaningful during the pandemic.

— Columnist Patrice Apodaca writes about the struggles of the transgender community and the prejudices they contend with.

— Keys on Main, a significant business at the Triangle Square shopping center in Costa Mesa, has closed. The owner of the center says proposed digital signage would help.