April 2, 2021

Accused Orange County shooter had ‘business and personal’ relationship with victims, police say

A gunman who shot and killed three adults and a 9-year-old boy came armed with…

A gunman who shot and killed three adults and a 9-year-old boy came armed with a semi-automatic handgun, pepper spray and handcuffs, police said, and he used bicycle cable locks to chain the gates of the Orange business complex.

Law enforcement officials made clear on Thursday that the mass shooting the prior evening that also left two people in critical condition was not a random attack, but stemmed from a personal and business relationship between the alleged shooter and the victims.

Police identified the suspected shooter as 44-year-old Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, but did not officially release the names of the victims killed in what authorities described as a massacre.

However, a family member identified one of the victims as Luis Tovar, the 50-year-old owner of Unified Homes, a real estate sales office for mobile homes in the complex.

Vania Tovar, 28, one of Luis Tovar’s five children, described him as the backbone of their family, someone who always supported them in their times of need.

“Our world is shattered,” Vania Tovar said Thursday.

Luis Tovar with his five year old granddaughter, daughter of Vania Tovar, 28, who calls her dad “the backbone of our entire family.” (Courtesy of Vania Tovar) 

A 911 caller at 5:34 p.m. Wednesday described seeing a man shooting into a business across the street at 202 W. Lincoln Avenue, at a two-story office complex near Glassell Street.

In less than two minutes, the first officer arrived, quickly followed by a second. According to Orange police Lt. Jennifer Amat, the officers found the two entrance gates locked, barring them from the complex.

The officers fired gunshots through the gate, Amat said, and the shooter fired as well. The shooter was struck, though it isn’t yet known if it was from police gunfire or by his own hand.

Officers used bolt cutters from a sergeant’s vehicle to force their way into the complex. Along with an injured Gonzalez, the officers found a 9-year-old boy and a surviving woman in the courtyard.

“It appears a little boy died in his mother’s arms as she was trying to save him,” said District Attorney Todd Spitzer, adding that the relationship was not confirmed.

On Thursday, April 1, 2021, Orange police named Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, as the suspect in a mass shooting a day earlier at 202 W. Lincoln Ave., in Orange, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Moving through the complex, the officers found the body of a woman on an upstairs office landing, discovering another woman and a man in different office suites. Both offices belonged to Unified Homes.

Police on Thursday were still going over security footage from the business, along with officer-worn cameras, to determine an exact timeline for the shootings.

“As you can imagine, this is a complex scene which takes time to thoroughly process,” Amat said.

A still image released by police showed a man in dark clothing with a baseball cap, sunglasses and a bandana over his mouth and nose holding a handgun in his right hand and a backpack over his left shoulder as he walked among tables and desks. Police said they found pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition in the backpack.

Gonzalez and the injured woman remained in critical condition on Thursday, police said.

The exact motive for the mass shooting remained elusive on Thursday. And police said it was unclear if the weapon, which was found at the scene, was acquired legally.

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

The suspect and victims were believed to be known to each other through Unified Homes. But police did not outline their exact relationships to each other.

A still frame from a security video of a man who police say is accused shooter Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez in Orange, CA, on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Photo Courtesy of Orange Police Department) 

Police further said the shooter arrived at the business in a rental car, that was found at the scene, and had recently been living out of a motel room in Anaheim. A clerk at the Lemon Tree Hotel & Suites confirmed that Gonzalez had checked out of a room there, but would not say when.

Coroner officials had not confirmed the identities of all the victims, Amat said Thursday at an afternoon news conference, and therefore had not notified all family members.

“We will provide the identity of the victims as soon as they are available,” she said. “We feel for the families who believe that their loved ones may be one of the victims.”

Gonzalez is likely to face special circumstances murder charges, for the killing of multiple people and possibly for lying in wait due to locking of the gates, Spitzer said.

“Let me make this very clear: Mr. Gonzalez is eligible for the death penalty,” the district attorney said. If the suspect is convicted of four murders, Spitzer said, “It will be up to me ultimately to make the decision.”

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the District’s Attorney’s Office, said officers were wearing body cameras. Amat said the footage from the body cameras will be released at some point, but it is not clear when.