Orange County authorities said today they have identified the first victim of a shooting spree that left four people dead, including the gunman, but her name was withheld while officials tried to track down her family.
The relationship between the 20-year-old victim, who police said was gunned down about 4:45 a.m., Tuesday Feb. 19 by Ali Syed in his home at 5 Red Leaf Lane in Ladera Ranch, was still unknown, according to Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
He said they “do not appear to be girlfriend and boyfriend.”
Syed’s family did not recognize the woman, Amormino said.
The suspected gunman — who was unemployed, living at home with his parents and taking one class at Saddleback College — killed two more people and injured others during a rush-hour shooting spree.
Syed, who had been taking classes at Saddleback since the fall of 2010, was “kind of a loner (who) doesn’t have a lot of friends,” Amormino said.
After shooting the woman, the suspect fled in an SUV and tried to carjack a number of vehicles in the Tustin area, police said.
The first carjacking occurred at 5:10 a.m.
The victim, who was shot in the head by the suspect in the parking lot of a Big Lots store at Red Hill Avenue and El Camino Real was hospitalized, but was expected to survive, Tustin police Lt. Tom Tarpley said.
The man, whose name was not released, had been waiting for his son to carpool to work. When he saw the suspect coming, he punched the accelerator and tried to drive away, but Syed, who was out of his vehicle, shot him, Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan said.
The victim crashed the car a short distance away.
Syed then got back into his vehicle, but ditched it minutes later because it had a flat tire, Jordan said.
It was then that he stole a man’s Dodge pickup truck at a Mobil gas station at Red Hill Avenue and Nisson Road, Tarpley said.
A “very polite” Syed walked up to the gas station customer and, according to Jordan, said, “I don’t want to hurt you. I killed somebody and today’s my last day. Give me your keys.”
Syed drove the truck onto the northbound Santa Ana (5) Freeway, but stopped and got out of the pickup at the transition to the southbound Costa Mesa (55) Freeway, where he opened fire on passing vehicles in an attempt to procure another vehicle, Tarpley said.
One motorist sustained a bullet wound to the head, but the Tustin resident — who was not carrying a cell phone — was able to drive to his house, where he called for help, Jordan said.
The man’s name was withheld.
Police found seven shell casings at the freeway shooting scene, Tarpley said.
The owner of the Dodge pickup never put gas in the truck at the Mobil station, prompting the suspect’s search for another vehicle, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
A short time later, 69-year-old Melvin Lee Edwards of Laguna Hills was fatally shot in a carjacking on Village Way at the southbound Costa Mesa (55) Freeway off-ramp in Santa Ana. Edwards, who owned an aerospace business in Santa Ana, was on his way to work, Bertagna said.
“Reports are that he got out of the vehicle, confronted our victim who was in his BMW … he orders him out of the vehicle, walks him to the side of the curb and executes our victim,” Bertagna said.
Edwards is survived by his wife and adult son and daughter.
The gunman got into Edwards’ BMW and drove back into Tustin, where another carjacking occurred near the Micro Center at 1100 Edinger Ave.
“It was also a call of a man with a gun,” Tustin police Lt. Paul Garaven said. “We arrived on scene. There (were) two victims. One victim is deceased. The other victim suffered a gunshot wound and is being treated for those injuries.”
The fatally wounded victim, 26-year-old Jeremy A. Lewis of Fullerton, was working at a hotel construction site across the street from the Micro Center, Tarpley said. As one of Lewis’ co-workers ran across the street toward the sound of gunshots, Syed opened fire and shot him, as well, then took the unidentified man’s pickup truck and fled, Tarpley said.
California Highway Patrol officers were closing in on Syed when he got out of the truck at east Katella Avenue and north Wanda Road in Villa Park and committed suicide, Tarpley said.
Police said they recovered the shotgun the suspect used in all the shootings and were trying to determine ownership of the weapon.