A day after authorities captured a man they say fatally shot his father, brother and two other people during a 12-hour rampage across Los Angeles’ sprawling San Fernando Valley, they were still struggling to answer a key question: What set him off?
Police who spent hours pursuing Gerry Dean Zaragoza from one end of the valley to the other took him into custody Thursday afternoon not far from where the rampage had begun before dawn.
He was captured by plainclothes officers surveilling the area, said police Capt. William Hayes, who added, “There was a small use of force.”
Television footage showed Zaragoza sitting in a wheelchair and appearing alert as he was loaded into an ambulance.
“We don’t know exactly what the motive was or why,” police Lt. Kirk Kelley told KABC-TV.
Authorities said Zaragoza, 26, killed his father and brother and wounded his mother at an apartment complex in Canoga Park, a modest, aging neighborhood tucked into the San Fernando Valley’s southwest corner.
From there, he traveled several miles to North Hollywood in the valley’s northwest corner. There, police said, he gunned down two people. A woman believed to be an acquaintance was killed and a man was critically wounded.
Hours later, police said, Zaragoza shot and killed a stranger on a bus in Van Nuys, in the center of the San Fernando Valley, the vast suburban section of Los Angeles that is home to nearly 2 million people.
Zaragoza is also suspected of an attempted robbery outside a Canoga Park bank, although nothing was taken and no one was hurt.
A dozen hours after the rampage began in Canoga Park it ended there, in a commercial section of the neighborhood where plainclothes officers had spotted Zaragoza. They said they recovered a firearm during the arrest.
Michael Ramia, who employed Zaragoza’s father, Carlos, as a carpet cleaning technician, described the older man as “a guy with no enemies, very outgoing.”
“The nicest guy you’d want to be around,” said Ramia, who added that the elder Zaragoza worked for him for 12 years.
He noted that Zaragoza had confided in him that his son was battling drug problems, adding the father tried to help the son by pushing him to come to work with him. Ramia said the younger Zaragoza seemed to have “no motivation.”
“He was a father just trying to protect his son,” Ramia said of Zaragoza’s father. “He did it to his last day. He wouldn’t give up on his son.”
Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this story.