Four people lost their lives in Southern California and two more were injured over the course of a stabbing spree spanning two cities and almost three hours. The assailant – an as-of-yet unidentified 33-year-old Hispanic man driving a silver Mercedes – was arrested coming out of a 7-Eleven in Santa Ana. While the suspect did arm himself with a handgun after killing a security guard at his last stop, he never got the opportunity to use it, as the police were waiting for him when he came out.
But how did the suspect manage to avoid being caught as long as he did? He didn’t stop moving. The mobile nature of his crimes – along with the apparently random selection of targets and the fact that he used knives, which tend to draw much less attention than guns – meant that by the time police responded to one scene, the killer was already on his way to the next. It was only after talking to witnesses from multiple locations that officers discovered the crimes were connected, that the suspect drove a silver Mercedes, and that a car matching the description had been spotted.
The series of crimes began at the suspect’s apartment complex. Garden Grove police received a burglary call just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, August 7, after two people came home to a burglarized apartment. A mere 20 minutes later, police were called to a robbery at a bakery in the same town. According to Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney, it now seems the man robbed his neighbor, drove to the bakery and took an unknown amount of cash, then returned to the apartment complex and stabbed two people to death. At the time, however, it was unclear that the incidents were connected.
Just after 6 p.m., authorities responded to a robbery siren alarm at an insurance business. A female employee was wounded after a man stabbed her, grabbed some money, and then took off. At this point, the police had spoken to enough witnesses to realize that each of these crimes had the same suspect. An alert was put out on his car and undercover detectives set out to find him. Not long after the incident at the insurance office, the police were alerted to an attack at a gas station. A man was stabbed in the back and slashed across the face – almost losing his nose – while pumping gas. Both the man and the woman from the preceding attack were hospitalized for serious wounds, but are expected to pull through.
The silver Mercedes was later spotted headed toward Santa Ana, so undercover detectives were sent that way. The car was found parked outside a 7-Eleven at around 7:30 p.m. and police surrounded the store. The suspect came out carrying a knife and a handgun. There had been an armed guard at the store, who was, of course, the obvious first target. After stabbing him, the suspect cut the guard’s gun off his belt. Officers confronted and arrested the attacker in the parking lot once he exited the store, putting an end to the spree. Authorities then discovered that before they found the suspect at the Santa Ana 7-Eleven, he had stopped by a nearby Subway and killed another person during his robbery there. He is also believed to have robbed a check-cashing business in Garden Grove around 5 p.m.
The motive behind these crimes seems to be robbery, and those who were killed don’t appear to have been predetermined targets so much as just the unfortunate people who happened to be in the way.
The random nature of the attacks and the apparent anger and total disregard for human life shocked the police spokesperson. “I’ve worked here for 30 years,” Lt. Whitney told reporters. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this where we have a suspect kill four people in one day and attack other people that are just innocent victims. It’s pure evil.” He went on to explain that the crimes didn’t have anything to do with racial hatred, as the suspect and most of the known victims are Hispanic.