TUSTIN, Calif. – A violent rampage that left four dead in suburban Orange County began in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday when a 20-year-old killed a woman in his home and sped away in his parents’ car, authorities said.
An hour later, it was over – but not before Ali Syed had killed two more people during carjackings, shot up vehicles on a busy freeway interchange and left three others injured in a trail of carnage that stretched across 25 miles.
One driver was forced from his BMW at a stop sign, marched to a curb and shot in the back of the head as other commuters watched in horror.
“He was basically executed,” Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. “There were at least six witnesses.”
Syed later killed himself. He lived with his parents at the Ladera Ranch residence where the first victim, an unidentified woman in her 20s, was slain, Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan said. He was unemployed, taking one class at a local community college, Jordan said.
The woman was not related to the shooter and it wasn’t known what she was doing at the home, said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino.
Syed’s parents were in the house at the time, fled the residence when shots were fired, and reported it, he said.
Jordan said Syed stated to one carjacking victim: “I don’t want to hurt you. I killed somebody. Today is my last day.”
Jordan said there was no indication of a motive, but he sought to assure residents that the violence was over.
“There is no conspiracy here, there are no outstanding suspects, it was a very, very unfortunate situation, but I don’t think the people here in Orange County have to be worried about their safety,” he said.
The violence began at 4:45 a.m. when deputies responded to a call from Ladera Ranch, a sleepy inland town about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles. They found the woman shot multiple times.
Jason Glass, who lives across the street, said he couldn’t sleep and was watching TV in his garage with the door partly open when he heard what sounded like gunshots.
Then he heard a commotion and the sound of a car speeding away.
“I just happened to be in here when this happened,” Glass said about his garage. “To think he could have rolled under my door or needed a car or needed to hide is crazy. It’s freaking me out.”
From Ladera Ranch, police said the gunman headed north and pulled off Interstate 5 in Tustin, about 20 miles away, with a flat tire.
Syed approached the driver of a pickup at a gas station and asked for his keys, Jordan said.
“He says something to the effect of, ‘I’ve killed somebody. Today’s my last day. I don’t want to hurt you. Give me your keys,’ ” he said. “He hands over the keys and he gets in the truck and leaves.”