The estranged wife of a man suspected of killing four people during a shooting rampage in Orange, California, last week said she is devastated – and also fearful because her family has been threatened.
“I don’t have the words to describe the pain and horror that this tragedy has caused me,” wrote Aleyda Mendoza in a lengthy text message to USA TODAY and other news outlets. “My heart is crushed.”
Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, was arrested after a gun battle with officers at the mobile home sales office where a 9-year-old boy and three others were murdered Wednesday. Gaxiola, who was wounded in the exchange, faces murder and attempted murder charges.
Police have not determined a motive. During an arraignment from his hospital bed Friday, assistant public defender Ken Morrison said his client had been unconscious and unable to speak since the shooting. The hearing was continued until Monday pending an update on Gaxiola’s condition.
Mendoza wrote that she still can’t accept what happened.
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“I keep closing my eyes and praying to God this is all just a bad dream and I’ll wake up soon,” she wrote.
Mendoza wrote that she had not been in contact with Gaxiola since they were separated about two years ago.
“It hurts me even more knowing my ex-husband was capable of doing such a horrible thing,” she added. “He left behind a sea of pain and grief for so many families who can’t find comfort.”
The massacre is the latest in a string of mass shootings across the country after a lull amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The carnage took place a week after a gunman in Boulder, Colorado, killed 10 people at a supermarket. The week before that, a gunman in the Atlanta area killed eight people, most of them women of Asian descent, at three spas.
In California, police say Gaxiola lived in a nearby motel and arrived at the scene, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles, in a rented car. He locked gates to the office suite before the attack, and responding officers heard gunshots ring out and called a sergeant to bring bolt cutters.
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Security video inside the office showed the gunman wearing a bandana over his face, armed with a semiautomatic handgun and carrying a backpack that authorities said contained pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition.
The victims were identified as Luis Tovar, 50, who owned Unified Homes; Leticia Solis Guzman, 58; and Jenevieve Raygoza, 28, and her brother, Matthew Farias, 9.
Farias died in the arms of is mother, Blanca Tamayo, a Unified Homes employee who was the shot but survived. Tamayo said Matthew was usually at day care after school, but Wednesday afternoon he was with her. When police arrived Tamayo was cradling her dead son.
Tovar had a previous relationship with Tamayo, and they were Raygoza’s parents.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think this could happen,” Alec Torres, a partner at Unified Homes who was not in the office at the time, told the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. “We were shocked to find out it was him. There was never any bad blood.”
Mendoza said she has worked at Unified Homes more than a decade and views the owner and employees as family.
“I learned everything I know there and they shaped who I am today,” she wrote. “They always supported me and were there for me and my children whenever I needed them most.”
Mendoza said she has received threatening phone calls since the shooting, adding, “Now my children and I fear for our lives.”
Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press