TUSTIN, Calif. – A violent rampage that left four dead in suburban Orange County began in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday when a 20-year-old killed a woman in his home and sped away in his parents’ car, authorities said.
An hour later, it was over – but not before Ali Syed had killed two more people during carjackings, shot up vehicles on a busy freeway interchange and left three others injured in a trail of carnage that stretched across 25 miles.
One driver was forced from his BMW at a stop sign, marched to a curb and shot in the back of the head as other commuters watched in horror.
He was basically executed, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. There were at least six witnesses.
Syed later killed himself. He lived with his parents at the Ladera Ranch residence where the first victim, an unidentified woman in her 20s, was slain, Tustin Police Chief Scott Jordan said. He was unemployed, taking one college class, Jordan said.
The woman was not related to the shooter, and it wasn’t known what she was doing at the home, Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino said.
Syed’s parents were in the house at the time, fled the residence when shots were fired, and reported it, he said.
Jordan said there was no indication of a motive, but he sought to assure residents that the violence was over.
There is no conspiracy here, there are no outstanding suspects, it was a very, very unfortunate situation, but I don’t think the people here in Orange County have to be worried about their safety.
After he fled his home, police said the gunman headed north and pulled off Interstate 5 in Tustin, about 20 miles away, with a flat tire and other damage to his parents’ car.
A man who was waiting in a shopping center parking lot to carpool with his son saw Syed had a gun and tried to escape in his Cadillac, Jordan said. Syed ran after the car as it drove away and fired his shotgun through the back window, striking the driver in head but not killing him.
Syed then crossed the street to a gas station, where he approached the driver of a pickup and demanded his keys, Jordan said.
Syed got back on the freeway, where he pulled to the side of the road at the busy I-5 and State Route 55 interchange and began firing at commuters, Jordan said.
One driver was struck in the mouth and hands. Two other cars were hit but their drivers weren’t injured, Jordan said.
The shooter then exited the freeway in nearby Santa Ana but ran the curb and got his car stuck, authorities said.
He approached Melvin Edwards, a 69-year-old from Laguna Hills, as Edwards sat in his BMW at a stop sign. Syed forced Edwards to get out of his car, marched him across the street and shot him three times, Jordan said.
Syed took Edwards’ BMW and next popped up at the Micro Center, a Tustin business, where he shot and killed construction worker Jeremy Lewis, 26, of Fullerton. Lewis’ co-worker rushed to intervene and was shot in the arm, Jordan said.
Syed took that man’s utility truck and fled, this time with California Highway Patrol officers in pursuit. He jumped from the moving utility truck at an intersection in Orange and shot himself immediately, Jordan said.