LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police fatally shot a man early Tuesday suspected of going on a violent rampage in the city's downtown, shooting several people — killing two of them, including a newlywed — seemingly at random before leading police on an hours-long chase that ended in a standoff on a freeway overpass.
The suspect, only described as a man in his late 40s or early 50s, was pronounced dead on the overpass in Orange County, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“This appears to be random acts of violence,” police Lt. Raul Jovel told reporters in Fullerton, where the man was shot. “We have no idea what precipitated this.”
The man had been driving a white Jeep Cherokee and refused pleas from police and a family member to surrender, authorities said. Shots were fired at police during the standoff, and one officer returned fire, killing the man.
The shooting rampage adds to LA's recent rise in violent crime. The number of people shot in the city has increased 73% this year, compared with the same time period in 2020. The police killing Tuesday marks the second time LAPD officers have fatally shot a person in four days.
Detectives are investigating whether the shootings were hate crimes, the Los Angeles Times reported. The victims included two Asian men and a Latino man. Hate crimes, particularly against Asians, have risen dramatically nationwide.
“We are very mindful of the potentiality for that, and leaning into that very actively,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said.
The drive-by shooting began around 12:55 a.m. near the University of Southern California when the suspect pulled alongside a victim's vehicle and fired multiple rounds at him, Moore said later during a police commission meeting. The victim suffered a bullet graze wound to his head; he is expected to survive.
Moore said a dashboard camera inside the victim's vehicle captured part of the shooting and the Jeep's license plate, which helped officers circulate a description of the car.
About 10 minutes later, another shooting occurred less than a mile (kilometer) away. The suspect drove alongside another man's vehicle — this time in a Starbucks drive-thru — and backed into it, causing a slight crash. The suspect then fired into the vehicle, killing a newlywed who was driving with his wife, Moore said. Police believe there was a “verbal exchange” between the couple and the gunman, but Moore did not know what had been said.
Neither victim was a USC student, the university said.
The second deadly shooting occurred around 1:25 a.m., about 3 miles (4.83 kilometers) away from the second scene. A man was driving when the gunman pulled up next to him and began firing through the window. The coroner identified that victim as 42-year-old Mingzhi Zhu of South Pasadena.
Zhu was an Uber driver and was on his way to pick up a rider, the company said in a statement that called the shootings senseless and heartbreaking.
A fourth incident was reported shortly after the homicide, Moore said, when the suspect fired at a vehicle in an intersection.
Officers spotted the suspect's Jeep and began a long pursuit, which included the suspect firing at a white Tesla while driving. The driver was not injured.
The chase covered several freeways in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Police used spike strips to disable the Jeep on an overpass in Fullerton around 3:30 a.m., when a standoff with LAPD SWAT officers began.
SWAT pinned the Jeep in and attempted negotiations aimed at having the suspect surrender, Moore said. The suspect began firing at the officers through the vehicle's front windshield, and an officer returned fire. The man shot at police a second time, the chief said, prompting the officer to return fire again.
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, and a handgun believed to be linked to the earlier shootings was found, Moore said.
Police are investigating what led to the spate of violence and if the man is connected to any other crimes.
“We’ll be going back to the suspect’s home, talking to family members, trying to figure out what led to these acts of violence,″ Jovel said.
On Saturday, LAPD officers shot and killed 34-year-old Richard Solitro, who had gotten into a car crash with police. Solitro got out of his vehicle and, holding his hand behind his back, began counting down “3 ... 2 ... 1” as he started to bring his hand out, police said.
At least one officer fired, fatally striking him. Police did not find a weapon. Solitro had been previously shot by police in Rhode Island in 2018.