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Police seek gunman, motive in LA family shooting

Posted: October 25, 2012 5:00 p.m.
Updated: October 25, 2012 5:00 p.m.

Flowers and votive candles are seen outside the home of the owners of a family-owned business, United States Fire Protection Services, in Downey on Thursday.

 

DOWNEY, Calif. (AP) — As police searched for a gunman who killed three people and critically wounded two others in suburban Los Angeles, friends and neighbors of the family targeted in the attack grappled for answers on Thursday.

Authorities have been mum regarding a motive for the shootings and haven't identified a suspect.

The gunman doesn't appear to be a former employee, friend or family member, Downy police Lt. Dean Milligan said. Police, however, say they don't believe the killings were a random act of violence.

Authorities are still looking for a stolen black Camaro, which they say the suspect used to get away after the shootings.

Police have not identified the five victims, but a portrait began to emerge of a tight-knit family who threw large parties and ran a successful company.

Prayer candles and flowers were left at the home and nearby business where the shootings took place. A sign decorated with pink hearts and flowers was left outside the house, reading "RIP Susana, to a great mother."

Workers returned to the industrial strip where the first shots were fired at the small family-owned fire extinguisher company.

"This is absolutely heartbreaking," said Dean Wright, who owns the septic supply business next door. "The guy who did this had to be absolutely crazy."

Richard Mercado, 36, a family friend, said he grew up with the two brothers who ran United States Fire Protection Services Inc., which sells professional firefighting gear and equipment.

Mercado said the siblings made a lot of money with the business and that they also liked to buy and sell motorcycles and cars.

"If they saw money to be made they would invest in it," Mercado said. "They always had extra money."

Police said the deadly encounter began around midday Wednesday and that someone called from the business to reporting a shooting.

A few minutes after police arrived, a 13-year-old boy called dispatchers from the family house just down the street, authorities said, where the second shooting happened.

The gunman fled in a 2010 black Camaro that is registered to Maria Fuentes, the mother of the business owners. Wright said she was shot in the face at the business and survived. The other survivor is the teenage boy, Wright said. Authorities said the two survivors of the shooting are in critical condition.

A female secretary and a male employee were killed at the business, according to Wright. At the family's home, the shooter killed the wife of one of the brothers, he said.

The woman and teenager were originally at the business, but somehow got to the home in the Camaro before being shot, according to police. Police don't know whether they drove themselves or were kidnapped by the suspect.

There was no sign of forced entry at either location and police believe the suspect spoke with the victims at both locations before the shooting began. The teen victim, however, did not recognize the gunman, Milligan has said.

The house is a duplex facing foreclosure in a process that began last December, according to real estate records. The property was scheduled to be auctioned Nov. 26 with an asking price of about $837,000.

Lizzy Bonilla, who recently moved in across the street, said she was at home at the time of the shooting and didn't hear any gunfire or commotion until police arrived.

Bonilla, 19, said the family had large parties, most of the time during the day, which was accompanied by Mexican music.

"They had party buses leaving from their property," she said. "They were a big family, and they looked like they were always having fun."

Mercado, the family friend, said he's been trying to reach one of the brothers who had been in Mexico this week but has been unsuccessful. He questioned why trouble would find its way to his friends.

"They ran their business like everyone else," he said. "But maybe they did something wrong and it caught up with them."

 

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