Prosecutors filed a murder charge, 14 attempted murder charges and other allegations on Thursday and a man and woman they say embarked on a random shooting spree in the Whittier area over the weekend that left one man dead and three others wounded.
Alejandro Lazo, 21, and his girlfriend Reyna Gomez, 26, both of Whittier, who themselves were shot and wounded under mysterious circumstances following Saturday’s mobile rampage, have previously been considered “persons of interest,” in the series of violent crimes. Both suspects are self-described gang members with criminal records.
But Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau Capt. Christopher Bergner announced Thursday that the couple has been formally arrested in connection with the crime spree.
And the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed one count of murder, 14 counts of attempted murder and one count of carjacking against each defendant, according to district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling. Gomez was additionally charged with torture for allegedly shooting a man in the groin during the bizarre attacks that unfolded in Whittier, La Mirada and Pico Rivera.
There was no known motive or explanation for the rampage, Bergner said.
“These were senseless acts of violence, acts committed on innocent people that were merely enjoying the day, running errands, in what they believed to be a safe area,” the captain said. “The individuals that were victims of this crime, these were random targets of violence that were unprovoked.”
The investigation continues, and detectives are seeking additional suspects believed to have played roles in portions of Saturday’s crime spree, Bergner said. He declined to comment further regarding any outstanding suspects.
In addition, “They’re also reviewing similar crimes in the area to see of the suspects were also involved in any additional crimes that we haven’t yet reported,” Bergner said.
The spate of violence began about 1 p.m. Saturday in the 10000 block of Carmenita Road in South Whittier, where a man was wounded in the leg in a drive-by shooting. The attackers, later identified as Lazo and Gomez, were in a white Kia Rio when they carried out the Carmenita Road shooting.
The suspect turned up again about 2:15 p.m. in the 11100 block of Rosehedge Drive in Pico Rivera, where they carjacked a man at gunpoint and fled in his green Nissan Pathfinder SUV, Deputy Lilian Peck of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. The victim was unhurt.
Just over an hour later, another shooting linked to the couple was reported behind a Starbucks coffee shop at Whittier Boulevard and Colima Road, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said. Gomez is accused of shooting a man in the groin from as he walked down the street, resulting in the torture charge filed against her, officials said. The victim, a man in his 50s, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The suspects then headed down Colima Road in the carjacked Pathfinder and opened fire at two motorists who were stopped at a traffic light near Lambert Road, Peck said. No one was injured in the car-to-car attacks.
The shooters continued south to Imperial Highway and La Mirada Boulevard, where they shot a man in the arm as he was sitting in a car about 4 p.m., according to Peck.
“Norwalk Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to the La Mirada shooting but quickly learned another shooting occurred just south of them, at the intersection of Santa Gertrudes Avenue and Alicante Road, La Mirada,” Peck said.
“The fourth victim, Jose Ricardo Sahagun, a 44-year-old father of two little boys, was struck multiple times with gunfire as he sat in his car, waiting at a traffic light. Other victims in nearby vehicles were also fired upon indiscriminately, but Jose cwas the only person injured and he was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Sahagun succumbed to his injuries at a hospital.
The search for the killers continued for more than two hours before deputies found the carjacked Nissan Pathfinder abandoned at Amelia Mayberry Park in South Whittier shortly after 6 p.m.,Peck said. “It was there the suspects unloaded the vehicle they used as a mobile gun turret,” she said.
But gunfire erupted again about 8 p.m., this time outside a motel in the 15000 block of Carmenita Road, authorities said. This time, it was the suspects who had been wounded in a shooting.
“Both suspects were shot in the torso and when they realized the gravity of their injuries, they flagged down a concerned citizen and asked her to dial 911 for them,” Peck said.
Lazo and Gomez were found sitting in the white Rio believed to have used in the first shooting of the spree, officials said. A gun was recovered from the car, and has since been linked to the numerous nearby crimes scenes, Bergner said.
The circumstance of the suspect’ shooting remains under investigation by the Whittier Police Department. No suspect description was available.
Family members of Sahagun thanked the police and God for the arrests in the slaying of their loved one, as well as the community for its outpouring of support.
The Compton social worker and former school teacher left behind a wife and two sons, ages 4 and 7.
“While this is a positive step toward justice and closure, there’s no reconciling of the fact that the taking of a n innocent life has devastated both our family, and the community,” Maria Del Rosario Sahagun.
Family members described Jose Sahagun as an example for the community.
A fund to benefit Jose Sahagun has been set up online at www.gofundme.com/jose-ricardo-sahagun.
A viewing for Jose Sahagun has been scheduled for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdau at the All Souls Mortuary, 4400 Cherry Ave. in Long Beach.
A Mass will take place at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 8545 Norwalk Blvd. in Whittier, to be followed by burial at All Souls Cemetery in Long Beach.
Detectives described both Lazo and Gomez as self-identified gang members but declined to name the gang they belong to.
Both were released from jail late last year after serving time for prior convictions, officials said.
Los Angeles County court records show Lazo pleaded guilty to extortion and assault with a deadly weapon on Feb. 23, 2016. On the same date, he was also convicted of possession of methamphetamine on a separate case. He pleaded no contest to petty theft on Dec. 26. 2014.
Gomez pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia on July 6, 2015. She also pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine on July 9, 2015 and to possession of methamphetamine for sale on Jan. 8, 2014.
Gomez was convicted of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and possession of marijuana for sale on June 11, 2012.
She pleaded no contest to four counts of vandalism on Sept. 23, 2010 and one count of vandalism on Jan. 31, 2011. She was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on Oct. 20, 2009.
According to county booking records, Lazo was being held without bail, while Gomez was being held in lieu of $12 million bail. They were scheduled to make their initial court appearance Friday in the Downey branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
If convicted as charged, the suspects could both spend the rest of their lives in prison.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.
PHOTOS: (crime scene map and picture of victim Jose Sahagun courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.