Man charged with four murders in one-day shooting spree in Los Angeles

By Alex Dobuzinskis

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 26-year-old man accused of gunning down two family members and two others during a shooting spree last week in Los Angeles was charged on Monday with four counts of murder, officials said.

The accused gunman, Gerry Dean Zaragoza, was arrested on Thursday, the same day the shootings unfolded in the San Fernando Valley section of the city.

He pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Monday, Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, said by email.

Zaragoza is charged with fatally shooting his 56-year-old father, Carlos Ignacio, and 33-year-old brother, Carlos Pierre, before dawn on Thursday at a home in the San Fernando Valley, the District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Zaragoza's father worked as a carpet cleaner, according to local media.

Gerry Zaragoza also shot his mother's hand, and then travelled to a different part of the San Fernando Valley, near the Hollywood Burbank Airport, where he gunned down a former girlfriend, Azucena Lepe-Ayala, 45, at a gas station, prosecutors said.

A man, whose name has not been released, was wounded in that shooting, prosecutors said.

Lepe-Ayala, a mother of four, worked as a cashier at the gas station, according to local television station KTLA.

Her brother, Cuco Lepe, told KTLA Zaragoza had harassed his sister but that they never had a relationship, disputing authorities' characterization that she was the gunman's former girlfriend.

In the final shooting, Zaragoza boarded a bus and killed a 55-year-old man, Detwonia Harris, in the centre of the San Fernando Valley, prosecutors said.

"He didn't even talk to his last victim," Los Angeles Police Department Captain Billy Hayes said at a news conference last week, according to local media. "He's getting off the bus and he turns and shoots the person."

Police later in the day tracked Zaragoza down to a different part of the valley where they arrested him.

Zaragoza, who also was charged with attempting to rob a man outside a bank on Thursday, was held with no bail.

It was not immediately clear if he had obtained an attorney.

Los Angeles prosecutors and police on Monday declined to provide other details, including any possible motive for the shootings.

Zaragoza would be eligible for the death penalty if convicted, prosecutors said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, earlier this year declared a moratorium on executions.


(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Richard Chang)