Official: OC rampage shooter was loner, 'gamer'
TUSTIN, Calif. (AP) A woman who was the first of three people killed in a gunman's rampage has been identified, but her relationship to the shooter a videogame-playing loner remained unknown Wednesday, authorities said.
Courtney Aoki, 20, of Buena Park was shot multiple times early Tuesday in the home that gunman Ali Syed, 20, shared with his parents, said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.
But beyond that, authorities know little about her, including how she got the house, her occupation, and how she might have known Syed, Amormino said.
Syed, a part-time community college student who ultimately committed suicide, was a loner and a "gamer," Amormino said.
"He spent a lot of time alone in his room playing video games," he said.
A 12-gauge shotgun used in the killings belonged to Syed and was purchased by his father about a year ago, he said.
The rampage began before dawn Tuesday at the home in Ladera Ranch and ended 25 miles to the north during the early morning rush hour, police said.
Syed killed two more people during carjackings, injured at least three more, and shot up cars zooming down a busy freeway interchange before committing suicide with his shotgun as police closed in, authorities said.
The shooter forced one commuter stopped at a stop sign out of his BMW, marched him to a curb and shot him three times from behind as shocked witnesses looked on, Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan said.
The motive for the shootings remained unclear.
Syed had no criminal history and no history of mental illness or mental disability, said Lt. Paul Garaven, a Tustin police spokesman.
An autopsy will determine whether Syed had any drugs in his system, but Amormino said no illegal drugs were found in the house and there were no signs he was using illegal substances.
His parents did not recognize the woman who was shot to death in the Ladera Ranch home, he said.
Syed's parents rushed outside and called police at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday after hearing the gunshots, but Syed had already sped off in his parents' black SUV.
Officials released the recording of a 911 call that Syed's parents made. In the call the dispatcher tried to elicit information from the shooter's panicked, sobbing mother as a house alarm blared in the background.
"I think somebody was shot," the mother said in her first comprehensible statement. "I heard a gunshot."
The dispatcher then asked questions to sort out what happened including whether there was an intruder or if the mother had been shot.
"Yes, there is somebody in our house," the mother said.
After several minutes, Syed's father took the phone and said he believed his son may have gotten in a fight with a friend. The father said Syed left the home and took their car but he and his wife had not entered his son's room to see what happened.
We were asleep, we heard something, it sounded like a gunshot," he said.
"He's gone out," he said of his son. "Well, he took the car we had, right? He's not home right now, so I assume he drove away."
From Ladera Ranch, the gunman headed north and pulled off Interstate 5 in Tustin, about 20 miles away, with a flat tire, police said.
There he fired at and wounded a man in a car, then carjacked a vehicle from a man at a gas station and got back on the freeway, where he fired at commuters, authorities said.
The shooter then exited the freeway in nearby Santa Ana and carjacked a BMW, killing driver Melvin Lee Edwards, 69, of Laguna Hills.
Edwards served as a U.S. Army combat infantry officer in Vietnam and graduated from the University of Southern California, according to a biography on his company's website. He and his wife, Cheryl, had celebrated their 42nd anniversary on Feb. 12 and have two adult children, his brother-in-law, Jeff Osborn, told the AP in a phone interview.
"He was extremely remarkable person. I know it's an old cliche, but he really did love life," he said. "The world's a lot smaller today for not having him here."
Syed took Edwards' BMW and next popped up at a Tustin business, where he shot and killed construction worker Jeremy Lewis, 26, of Fullerton. Lewis' co-worker rushed to intervene and was shot in the arm, Jordan said.
Syed took the second construction worker's utility truck and fled to Orange, this time with California Highway Patrol officers in pursuit. He jumped from the moving truck at an intersection about five miles away, and shot himself in the head.