Murder charges filed against man accused of killing 3 in Hawaiian Gardens rampage

BELLFLOWER — Murder charges were filed today against a 26-year-old man who allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend and her brother and father at their home in Hawaiian Gardens.

The charges against Joseph Mercado include the special circumstance of multiple murders, which could make him eligible for the death penalty.

Mercado appeared in Bellflower Superior Court, but his arraignment was postponed until May 24, and the case was transferred to the Norwalk Courthouse.

In addition to the three counts of murder, Mercado was charged with two counts of attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, assault on a peace officer with an assault weapon, arson of an inhabited structure, child abuse and first-degree burglary.

Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty for Mercado.

According sheriff's deputies, Mercado went to the home of his ex-girlfriend, Serena Tarin, 23, early Thursday and opened fire with an AK-47 rifle, killing her and her brother, Alfredo Tarin Jr., 19, and their father, Alfredo Tarin Sr., 53. Tarin's mother, Luciana, was critically wounded.

Six other family members, including the former couple's infant son, escaped -- some by hiding on the roof.

Mercado allegedly tried to set the home at 21920 Devlin Ave. on fire, but failed, and was shot by a sheriff's deputy as he emerged from the house about 3:45 a.m.

Mercado was treated for the wound and was being held without bail, said Lt. Minh Dinh of the sheriff's Lakewood Station.

Mercado was in a child custody dispute with his ex-girlfriend, deputies said.

A memorial fund was set up to assist the Tarin family with burial expenses. Anyone wishing to assist the family should send contributions to Tarin Family Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of the West, 5240 Clark Ave., Lakewood, CA 90712. The bank's phone is (562) 420-2641.

KPCC's Cheryl Devall contributed audio to this report.

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