A 9-Year-Old Boy Is Among 4 Killed in Southern California Shooting

The authorities said the boy died in the arms of a woman, believed to be his mother, who was trying to protect him. The woman was wounded and hospitalized.,

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Police Provide Update on Southern California Office Shooting

A gunman opened fire at a Southern California real estate office on Wednesday, killing four people. In an update on Thursday, law enforcement officials said they recovered several items believed to have belonged to the suspect.

Officers arrived on scene and determined shots were actively being fired in the business complex at 202 West Lincoln. Officers immediately approached the building, however, were unable to enter the courtyard due to the fact that gates had been locked from the inside. Two officers engaged the suspect from outside of the gates and an officer-involved shooting occurred. Additionally, officers located two victims in the courtyard area, one of which was a 9-year-old boy, who was deceased. An adult female, who had also been shot, was found with the boy. Officers immediately rendered aid to her. That female victim, along with a suspect, were each transported to a local hospital where they both remain in critical, but stable condition. The suites where those victims were located have been identified as the Unified Homes business. Investigators have recovered several items at the scene, including a semiautomatic handgun and a backpack containing pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition, which we believe belonged to the suspect.

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A gunman opened fire at a Southern California real estate office on Wednesday, killing four people. In an update on Thursday, law enforcement officials said they recovered several items believed to have belonged to the suspect.CreditCredit…KTLA

By Louis Keene and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

Published March 31, 2021Updated April 1, 2021, 4:55 p.m. ET

ORANGE, Calif. — A gunman opened fire at a Southern California real estate office on Wednesday, killing four people, including a 9-year-old boy who the authorities said appeared to have died in his mother’s arms as she tried to shield him from the gunfire.

The shooting was likely related to a “business and personal relationship which existed between the suspect and all of the victims,” Lt. Jennifer Amat, a spokeswoman for the Orange Police Department, said at a news conference on Thursday morning.

“This appears to be an isolated incident, and we believe everyone knew each other,” Lieutenant Amat said.

The woman holding the boy was wounded in the shooting and remained in a hospital on Thursday after emergency treatment, with the Orange County district attorney, Todd Spitzer, cautioning that their relationship had not been formally determined. The police did not provide details about the other victims, a man and two women, because their next of kin had not all been notified.

The suspect, identified as Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, of Fullerton, was also hospitalized in critical condition with a gunshot wound, the authorities said.

Mr. Spitzer called the shooting a “horrific massacre,” and said that officials would learn more as the investigation unfolded. “It is a horrible, horrible tragedy that Mr. Gonzalez made a decision to use deadly force to deal with issues he was dealing with, apparently, in his life,” Mr. Spitzer said.

The attack in Orange, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, occurred at the offices of Unified Homes, a real estate and mobile home dealer, according to the business’s website. At the scene, which covered two floors and a courtyard area of the building, officials recovered a semiautomatic handgun and a backpack containing pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition, Lieutenant Amat said.

The gates to the complex were closed with bicycle cable locks, and officers fired their weapons from the outside the gates, Lieutenant Amat said. Officers then forced their way into the scene, officials said. When they entered the courtyard, officers found Mr. Gonzalez, who was injured, and took him into custody.

Wednesday’s shooting set people on edge both near and far from the scene because it came shortly after two nationally publicized mass shootings. On March 16, a gunman killed eight people at three spas in the Atlanta area. Six days later, a man stormed a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., and killed 10 people.

Until the shooting in Atlanta, it had been a year since a large-scale shooting in a public place in the United States, according to the Violence Project. But researchers say the kind of violence that unfolded in Orange never went away during the coronavirus pandemic — it simply went out of view. Data from the Violence Project shows that in 2020 there were more than 600 shootings in which at least four people were shot by one person, compared with 417 in 2019.

“Those numbers clearly indicate that it’s not that there were less during the pandemic, but actually more,” Ronnie Dunn, a professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University, said about mass shootings, adding that record gun sales may have added to the spike in shootings.

“It’s almost as if people have become desensitized to the human loss of the shootings in urban areas,” he said.

Emma Soto, 26, who lives in an apartment near the Orange real estate office, was doing laundry on Wednesday when she said she heard seven to 10 gunshots.

“It just sounded like a popping sound,” she said, adding: “We’re hearing of all these shootings going on, so I just thought, ‘Another shooting.’ But we never imagined it would be that close to us.”

Almost immediately after hearing the gunfire, Ms. Soto said, several police vehicles pulled up. She watched as officers emerged with their weapons drawn and ran toward the building.

Two officers discharged their weapons, said Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, but it was unclear whether they struck the suspect or whether his injuries were self-inflicted.

The neighborhood is typically quiet and peaceful, and it is largely Hispanic, said Ms. Soto, a manager at a nearby big-box store.

Hope Orozco, 27, was with her 3-year-old son at a neighbor’s house when she said she heard the gunfire. She said her son liked to watch her neighbor’s children play Call of Duty, the popular video game. At first, she said, she mistook the commotion outside for gunfire from the game.

“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, is this from the TV?'” Ms. Orozco said. She realized it was real after noticing that all the players were wearing headsets.

Hector Gomez and Edgar Gonzalez work at a roofing business located on the first floor of the building where the shooting occurred. Mr. Gomez said the woman who ran the real estate office would often bring her son to the building.

“He’s a cute little boy,” Mr. Gomez said.

The two men said they were convinced the woman and her son were among the victims. The woman’s S.U.V. was still in the parking lot, they said, as the police conducted their investigation late into the evening.

Mr. Gomez and Mr. Gonzalez usually leave the office around 5:30 p.m., when the shooting happened. On Wednesday, they left early.

“It could have been us,” said Mr. Gomez, who came back with Mr. Gonzalez after hearing about the shooting from their boss. “I don’t want to say this, but it probably would have been us. Because we’re always the last ones here.”

ImageInvestigators at the scene of a shooting in Orange, Calif., where four people were killed.
Investigators at the scene of a shooting in Orange, Calif., where four people were killed.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

The squat commercial building where the shooting took place is mostly surrounded by homes and apartment buildings in Orange, a city of 139,000 people less than six miles from Disneyland. Late Wednesday evening, about a dozen police and fire vehicles blocked the wide Lincoln Avenue.

The beige, low-rise building houses several businesses, including a property management company, an insurance agency and a consulting firm.

Lieutenant Amat said Orange had not seen “an incident like this” since a rampage in 1997 at a Caltrans maintenance yard, in which a gunman killed four people and was later killed by the police in a shootout.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Twitter that he was jolted by the shooting.

“Horrifying and heartbreaking,” he said. “Our hearts are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy.”

Louis Keene reported from Orange, and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio from New York. Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from Greenwich, Conn., Jacey Fortin from New York, and Manny Fernandez from Los Angeles.

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