Friends remember victims of shooting rampage in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles Police Department crime investigators collect evidence at one of the scenes of a triple shooting, a Shell gas station in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mourners left armloads of flowers and lit tall candles Friday to remember four victims who were killed in a shooting rampage across Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley that rattled the community during a 12-hour manhunt a day earlier.

Friends, neighbors and co-workers were in disbelief after the arrest of 26-year-old Gerry Dean Zaragoza in the killing of his father, brother and two other people, and the wounding of his mother and another man.

Police remained tight-lipped about a motive behind Thursday’s violence. The owner of a company where Zaragoza’s father worked said he had confided that his son had a drug problem.

“I can’t believe it,” Michael Ramia, who owns a carpet cleaning company, said as he looked at a growing memorial of flowers and candles outside the door of the Zaragozas’ apartment in Canoga Park. “I just feel like knocking on the door and going, “Carlos, Carlitos!'”

It was not clear whether Gerry Zaragoza had an attorney. He has not yet been arraigned.

Police would not say if officers had been called to the residence previously.

Zaragoza is accused of killing his 56-year-old father, Carlos I. Zaragoza, and his 33-year-old brother, Carlos Pierre Zaragoza, and wounding his mother, Blanca Zaragoza, at the family’s apartment.

Police said Gerry Zaragoza then fatally shot acquaintance Azucena Lepe, 45, and critically wounded a man at a gas station in North Hollywood, where a small memorial of candles stood with a photo of Lepe.

Employees declined to comment. Lepe’s family could not be reached.

Lepe’s brother, Cuco Lepe, told KTLA that Gerry Zaragoza was obsessed with his sister “Susie,” even though they never had a relationship. Lepe said Zaragoza had been harassing his sister for over a year.

“It was probably the most horrible moment of my life,” Cuco Lepe told the station about learning that his sister had been killed.

Authorities said Zaragoza also attempted to rob a man outside a bank in Canoga Park and then fatally shot a bus passenger in Van Nuys before he was taken into custody by police and FBI agents. The name of the passenger has not been released.

Ramia and employee Marisa Schetz dropped off a bouquet of white and yellow flowers Friday at the Zaragoza home.

They said Carlos Zaragoza often expressed frustration at his son’s drug problem and wanted him to work at the company, but he never showed up. They said they didn’t know any family issues had escalated.

“Carlos never told me he was scared,” Ramia said.

They described Carlos Zaragoza as an upbeat employee who trained other technicians and would chastise them if they complained. The company made a framed photo collage of him, signed by employees, and put it behind a burning candle.

Ramia said he would dedicate a carpet cleaning truck to his employee.

Susie Torres, 54, of Sherman Oaks said she met Blanca Zaragoza more than 20 years ago when Torres’ father and Zaragoza worked at the same restaurant.

Torres said Carlos and Blanca Zaragoza met there when he was a customer. She was from El Salvador and he was from Mexico, Torres said.

They moved to Canoga Park when Blanca Zaragoza got a job as a building manager.

Yvett Hernandez, 49, of Canoga Park was one of several people to visit the Zaragoza home Friday to provide comfort but found an empty home with a growing memorial.

“I have to pray for her,” she said.

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Associated Press writers John Antczak and Natalie Rice contributed to this report.

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