Crime & Justice

UPDATE: New details in Orange County shootings; 4 dead, 3 hurt by 20-year-old student (Map)

Police announced that the shooter in a chaotic Orange County shooting spree was 21-year-old Ali Syed, who ultimately shot himself.
Police announced that the shooter in a chaotic Orange County shooting spree was 21-year-old Ali Syed, who ultimately shot himself.
Ben Bergman/KPCC
Police announced that the shooter in a chaotic Orange County shooting spree was 21-year-old Ali Syed, who ultimately shot himself.
Police vehicles block an intersection where a shooting occurred in Tustin, according to NBC LA. It is one of several locations where shootings were reported early Tuesday morning.
Police announced that the shooter in a chaotic Orange County shooting spree was 21-year-old Ali Syed, who ultimately shot himself.
Officers gather at a command post at a shopping center near the intersection of Walnut and Red Hill avenues in Tustin. It is near the scene of one of the shootings in Orange County on Feb. 19, 2013.
Ben Bergman

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UPDATE 6:06 p.m.: Police still don't know why a 20-year-old man — identified as part-time college student Ali Syed — allegedly went on a deadly shooting rampage in Orange County Tuesday morning before taking his own life. Three victims were killed, and at least two others were wounded.

Syed — who had no criminal record — is believed to have killed a 69-year-old Laguna Woods man, a 26-year-old construction worker and an unidentified female victim.

The hour-long rampage that spanned some 25 miles started at the home of Syed, who lived with his parents in an upscale area of Ladera Ranch.

They ran outside to call police in the predawn darkness after their son is believed to have fatally shot an unidentified female, police said. By the time officers arrived, Syed was gone, having taken his parents' SUV.

Syed then drove to nearby Tustin, where he pulled into a Denny’s parking lot next to a man waiting for his son to arrive for a school carpool. The man noticed Syed loading a shotgun and tried to get away.

“And as he tried to escape, the suspect exited and started firing through the back window of the victim,” said Tustin Police Chief Scott Jordan. “He’s driving through the parking lot trying to get away, and the suspect is chasing him on foot taking shots at him.” The victim is hospitalized, but the extent of his injuries was not disclosed.

Next, Syed ran across the street to a gas station and asked a driver for his keys. For some reason, Syed treated this victim very differently from his others.

“Mr. Syed, being very polite, said, ‘I don’t want to hurt you,’” Jordan said. “He said, ‘I killed somebody. Today’s my last day. Give me your keys.'”

The man handed over his keys, and Syed drove to the 55 Freeway, where he got out of the pickup and started firing at southbound traffic, police said.

One passing motorist was injured, and at least two other vehicles were hit.

Syed then sped off the freeway in Santa Ana and crashed into a curb.

He walked up to another person, 69 year-old Melvin Edwards of Laguna Woods, who was waiting at a stop sign in his BMW on his way to work.

At least six bystanders were watching as Syed got out of the damaged pickup. “He quickly gets out, approaching the victim with the shotgun in hand, has him exit the car, and walks him across the street and executes him,” Jordan said.

Syed then drove back to Tustin, where he is believed to have fatally shot a 26 year-old construction worker, Jeremy Lewis of Fullerton.

Syed is also accused of shooting one of Lewis’ co-workers in the arm and stealing his utility truck.

Syed got back on the 55 freeway and exited in Orange.

Chief Jordan said officers from at least three different agencies were pursuing Syed, but before they could get close, he got out of his slowly moving truck.

“Almost instantly as he exited the vehicle, he took a shotgun, put it to his head and killed himself,” Jordan said.

Police said they still don’t have a motive for what set off the rampage.

—Ben Bergman

 UPDATE 2:17 p.m. Authorities say that Ali Syed, 20, is the man suspected of killing three and injuring others before shooting himself to death.

The suspect lived at home with his parents, Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Jim Amormino said at an afternoon news conference. He was unemployed and taking one class at Saddleback College, Amormino said.

The suspect's motive is unknown, Tustin Chief Scott Jordan said. The relationship between Syed and the woman who was the first victim is unknown, Amormino said; she has yet to be identified, but is not Syed's mother. Syed was single, Jordan said.

Syed's parents were at the residence at the time of the shootings, Amormino said; they fled the residence after shots were fired and called authorities.

A person carjacked by Syed said that Syed allegedly told them, "I don't want to hurt you. I killed somebody. Today's my last day," according to Jordan.

The victim in the Santa Ana homicide was 69-year-old Melvin Lee Edwards, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said. Rojas said authorities believe Edwards was cooperating with Syed.

Authorities believe the only weapon used by Syed was a shotgun, which they believe was his weapon. It appeared that only one weapon was used, Amormino said.

Jordan said there was no conspiracy and no additional suspects, and that Orange County residents don't need to be concerned about their safety.

— Mike Roe

UPDATE 1:58 p.m. Police announced that the suspected shooter was 20-year-old Ali Syed, who they allege killed three and injured three others before shooting himself to death.

UPDATE 10:20 a.m.: A chaotic shooting spree through Orange County left four people dead early Tuesday, including the shooter, and three people injured before the man stopped and shot himself to death, police said.

There were multiple crime scenes in Tustin, in Santa Ana and unincorporated Orange County, said Tustin Lt. Paul Garaven. There are also potentially many more victims who were shot at but not hit while driving on area freeways.

The shootings began at 4:45 a.m. when deputies responding to a call found a female shot multiple times in a house in unincorporated Ladera Ranch, said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

From 5:30 a.m. to 5:55 a.m., Tustin police received reports of shootings in several locations, Tustin police Supervisor Dave Kanoti .

The first call that came in was at Red Hill Avenue and Interstate 5. Police arrived and determined a carjacking had occurred and that victim was uninjured. An innocent bystander was shot and was taken to a hospital, Garaven said.

The next call was at the 55 Freeway and McFadden Avenue. Another carjacking occurred and that victim died, Garaven said.

The last call was about a man with a gun, he said, at Edinger Avenue east of the 55 Freeway. An officer arrived and found two more victims – one dead and the other injured.

Officers located the alleged shooter and followed him into the city of Orange, where they did a traffic stop, Garaven said. That is when the man committed suicide.

"He stopped the vehicle and got out and shot himself," Garaven said.

The suspect is a male, although Garaven couldn't confirm his age. He didn't have the sexes of all the victims.

The lieutenant said the gunman succeeded in stealing a vehicle at each carjacking.

"There have been other people coming forward saying they were shot at or their cars were shot at," he said, but so far none had reported any serious injury. Police are asking anyone who thinks they may have been shot at on the I-5 or 55 Freeways in Orange County early Tuesday morning to contact police.

Two of the wounded victims are being treated for serious injuries, while a third is being treated for minor injuries, police said.

A spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol said they didn't have any active crime scenes on the freeway, but the southbound 55 McFadden Avenue off-ramp would be closed until further notice.

The motive for the shootings is still unclear and it's also unclear if the victims knew each other or the shooter, Amormino said.

"I do not believe any of the victims are related to each other. It might have been a random thing," he said. "We just don't know."

Authorities were processing five crime scenes across the county.

Below is a map by NBC LA showing the location of the crime scenes:

View Feb. 19, 2013 OC Shootings in a larger map

UPDATE 9:20 a.m.: Authorities say a shooting spree through Orange County, Calif., has left four people dead, including the shooter, and several others injured.

Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said the shootings began at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday when deputies responding to a call about a shooting found a female shot multiple times in a house in Ladera Ranch.

Three more people were fatally shot in the next 25 minutes after carjackings in Tustin and Santa Ana (See map below).

Amormino says the suspect shot himself at an intersection in Tustin.

The motive for the shootings is still unclear and it's also unclear if the victims knew each other or the shooter.

UPDATE 8:47 a.m.:   Police say a chaotic 25-minute shooting spree through Orange County left a trail of dead and injured victims before the shooter killed himself.

Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said there are at least six crime scenes (see map) with three people dead, including the suspected gunman, and several others wounded.

The Orange County Register reports that there are four dead and two injured.

Tustin police Supervisor Dave Kanoti said the shootings started with an apparent carjacking at about 5 a.m. Tuesday in unincorporated Ladera Ranch area of Orange County.

Amormino  says deputies investigating a shooting call in Ladera Ranch found  a woman who was deceased. It is unclear if she was the victim of the carjacking or another victim.

From 5:30 a.m. to 5:55 a.m., Tustin police received reports of shootings in several locations. He says it is possible more people were shot at because some people may have chased the shooter.

Kanoti said the suspect shot himself in the middle of the intersection.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

UPDATE 8:01 a.m.: Orange County sheriff spokesman Jim Amormino confirms that one female is dead in the area patrolled by his department.
At about 4:45 a.m., deputies responded to a shooting call in Ladera Ranch in unincorporated Orange County and found  a woman who was deceased, Amormino said.  The suspect – described as a male in his 20s – fled in an SUV to the Tustin area where there are reports of more shootings .

The spokesman says there's no threat to the community and the suspect "has been accounted for," but wouldn't go into detail.
He won't confirm the age of the woman or the other alleged victims in Tustin because it's out of his jurisdiction.

PREVIOUSLY: At least three people are dead after a series of shootings early Tuesday near freeways in the Tustin area.

Tustin police Supervisor Dave Kanoti says two victims are confirmed dead in Tustin. He says the shooter then went several miles away where he killed himself.

"There are no other shooters and there is no threat to the community," said Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jim Amormino to NBC LA .

The first shooting occurred near the Red Hill Avenue exit from the I-5 Freeway at about 5:30 a.m. The second shooting, about 20 minutes later, was reported on the 55 Freeway near the Edinger Avenue exit.

Aerial video showed Tustin police and California Highway Patrol vehicles at the intersection of Wanda Road and Katella Avenue, just east of the 55 Freeway, according to NBC LA . A body was discovered at the location.

Authorities are investigating reports of a third shooting near McFadden Avenue and the 55 Freeway, where a body was found. Video from a helicopter at that location showed a pickup truck and several patrol vehicles on the freeway ramp, NBC LA reported.

Traffic on the southbound 55 Freeway was slow near the site of the investigation.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the age of the shooter and how many were killed by the shooter.