Suspect dead on 91 Fwy in O.C. following string of ‘random’ L.A.-area drive-by shootings that left 2 dead

Local news

A gunman suspected in three separate Los Angeles-area shootings died during an exchange of gunfire with police on the 91 Freeway in Orange County early Tuesday morning, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The standoff followed an hourslong chase of a white SUV that police identified as connected to a string of drive-by shootings along Figueroa Street that left two men dead and a third injured in a span of 30 minutes.

Video showed the 91 Freeway had almost come to a standstill around 4 a.m. as police faced off with the suspect, who was in the SUV that stopped between an armored vehicle and another SUV. The freeway was closed for hours in both directions at Raymond Avenue, near the border of Anaheim and Fullerton.

Shortly before 5 a.m., officers were seen deploying what appeared to be some kind of chemical irritant into the white SUV, video from Sky5 showed. A SWAT team then approached the passenger side of the vehicle with their guns drawn. Some time later, the suspect was seen on the ground being tended to by paramedics and then being covered with a sheet.

“At one point, the suspect fired at the officers, resulted in an officer-involved shooting,” LAPD Lt. Raul Jovel said at a news conference. “The suspect was hit by gunfire and was pronounced dead at scene by the local fire department. That suspect’s body is still here at the scene.”

He was eventually identified as 50-year-old Carlos Lopez, of Los Angeles.

The series of shootings began in Exposition Park near the University of Southern California.

The first of the three shootings was reported about 12:55 a.m. at Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard, where the suspect vehicle drove up to a car and fired several shots inside, LAPD said. The victim, a 43-year-old man, suffered a “sustained graze wound to the head” and was listed in stable condition, police said in a Twitter thread.

The second shooting was reported about 10 minutes later at a Starbucks drive-thru in the area of 28th and Figueroa streets in University Park — less than a mile from the first shooting. The victim, identified by the L.A. County coroner’s office as a 24-year-old man named Alexis Carbajal, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

That victim, who was in a blue Mustang, was a newlywed who was with his wife when the suspect crashed into him and then fired into the car, according to people at the scene who said they were his family members.

Surveillance video showed the Mustang backing up as the white SUV hit it then stopped alongside it before abruptly driving away.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help Carbajal’s family pay for his funeral.

The third shooting was reported at 1:25 a.m., about 2 miles away at Seventh and Figueroa streets in downtown Los Angeles.

The victim, a 42-year-old man identified by the coroner’s office as Mingzhi Zhu of South Pasadena, was stopped at a red light in his black Escalade when the suspect pulled up next to him and fired several shots inside, killing him, LAPD said.

At that scene, shortly after the shooting, a man told a photographer that he was waiting for his Uber driver, only to find out the driver he was trying to reach was the man killed in the shooting. He showed the ride request on the app on his phone. Police did not confirm whether the victim was an Uber driver, but the company did.

“The senseless acts of violence that took the lives of two innocent people, including Mr. Mingzhi Zhu who was on his way to pick up a rider, is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with those who lost their lives and their families,” Uber said in a statement to KTLA.

Zhu had moved to South Pasadena from China just five years ago, and leaves behind his wife and two young children, according to family spokesperson Yuki Cutcheon. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family. 

Police initially gave different ages for the victims in the second and third shooting that those ultimately provided by the coroner’s officer when their names were released.

When police identified the suspect as being the same person in the three shootings, it triggered a manhunt throughout the area, according to Jovel.

“The officers quickly discovered that it was the same shooting suspect description, a male and a white Cherokee,” the lieutenant said. “That information was immediately put out to all patrol units in order to stop the violence. The officers realized this was a suspect that was shooting community members, almost at random.”

Officers spotted the vehicle around 1:45 a.m. and went into pursuit. The chase went on for hours until they deployed spike strips, forcing the vehicle to stop as two vehicles boxed it in.

When the suspect refused to surrender, a SWAT team was called to the scene to negotiate with him, police said. 

Using the suspect vehicle’s license plate number, police found a family member of his and had the person call the suspect to get him to surrender. “Unfortunately that did not work,” the lieutenant said.

“This appears to be random acts of violence and that’s what really got the entire patrol force in the morning looking for this suspect,” Jovel said.

Police said a firearm was recovered at the scene.

“Because officers were actively engaged and present, they were able to prevent this suspect intent on violence, from harming other members of the community,” LAPD said.

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