(CNN) — When police were finally able to enter the courtyard of the shopping complex in Orange, California, where four people were killed in a shooting, on Wednesday, they found a woman holding an injured 9-year-old boy.
“It appears that a child died in his mother’s arms while she was trying to save him during this horrible massacre,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a news conference Thursday, adding later that nature Their exact relationship was still under investigation.
The facts were at least the twentieth mass shooting since the Atlanta-area spa attacks two weeks ago. Although investigations are still ongoing, police have begun to uncover what happened behind the closed doors of the shopping complex, as well as what led to the horrific act of violence.
“The preliminary motive is believed to be related to a business and personal relationship that existed between the suspect and all the victims,” Orange Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Amat said at a news conference Thursday.
“This was not a random act of violence,” he said.
Five 911 calls came in around 5:34 p.m., Amat said, and agents were at the complex about 50 miles south of Los Angeles a couple of minutes later.
When they arrived, they heard gunshots inside, but were unable to enter immediately. From the inside, the doors to the building’s courtyard are locked “with a bicycle-type cable lock,” Amat said.
It is unclear whether they intended to keep the victims inside or the officers outside, police officers said.
What the Orange Police found when they entered the scene of the shooting
After engaging in conversation with the suspect and shooting him, the police were able to enter the courtyard and found the suspect, who was injured, and detained him. Police had previously said it was unclear whether his injury was self-inflicted.
In the courtyard, the police also found the child and the adult woman who survived. She was taken to a hospital, where she is in critical but stable condition, Amat said.
Agents found three other victims in other parts of the complex, Amat said. A woman was up on an outdoor landing, a man was found inside an office building, and another woman was found in a separate office building.
The suites where some victims were found belonged to a business identified as Unified Homes, said Amat, a real estate business specializing in mobile homes.
Investigators recovered a semi-automatic pistol and a backpack containing pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition, which authorities believe belonged to the suspect.
Amat did not identify the victims, saying that family members’ notifications had not been completed. Among the dead were two women, a man and the 9-year-old boy, he said.
Police identified the suspect as 44-year-old Aminadab Gaxiola González. He is in a local hospital in critical but stable condition, Amat said.
CNN is working to determine whether González is represented by an attorney commenting on his behalf.
González, who is believed to have lived in a motel room in Anaheim, arrived at the complex in a rental car and parked it in a nearby parking lot, Amat said.
A preliminary investigation by authorities confirmed that the suspect used a legally purchased firearm, it added.
The investigation into the shooting in Orange
Authorities remained at the scene Thursday to complete the investigation.
Spitzer said investigators were there for two reasons: to investigate the mass shooting, as well as the aspect of the case that officers were involved in, to ensure both objectivity and transparency.
Spitzer emphasized that the suspect is eligible for the death penalty under California law because there were multiple victims.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether the fact that the doors were closed constitutes “lurking,” Spitzer said, a special circumstance that would also make the suspect eligible for the death penalty.
Over the course of his tenure, Spitzer said he had reviewed nearly 20 murder cases to determine whether to seek the death penalty, but has never brought a death case.
“Asking a jury to render a death verdict is the most serious consequence we ask for, and it is the only consequence when a jury makes the decision instead of a judge,” he said.
California has a moratorium in place on the death penalty, under a decree signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in March 2019.
– CNN’s Holly Yan, Alexandra Meeks and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism