One person was killed and at least two others were wounded Tuesday after an assailant armed with a military-style rifle opened fire in a residential area of Azusa, forcing authorities to secure the neighborhood and shut down nearby polling places, sending voters scrambling to find alternate locations.
After a standoff at a home that lasted several hours, police announced that the alleged gunman was found dead in the residence. Officials said they didn’t know whether the man — who was described as heavily armed — was killed by police or from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities said they did not believe the shooting was related to the polling place but did not reveal a motive.
“We don’t know what the motive is and why this person starting shooting,” said Homicide Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
At least one of the victims was headed to the polling station to vote, a law enforcement source told The Times.
Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Ron Singleton said two people were airlifted to an area hospital. The third victim, a man in his 70s, was dead at the scene, he said.
The shooting began about 2 p.m. after a report of gunfire in the 300 block of North Orange Avenue, Hunt said.
Officers arrived to find multiple victims and a suspect with a rifle, he said.
The suspect was armed with an assault rifle with “a rapid-fire capability,” Hunt said. Police don’t know whether the rifle is fully or semiautomatic.
The shooter immediately fired at least 20 shots at police, the source said.
Under a hail of gunfire, officers took cover and returned shots at the assailant, who retreated into a home in the 500 block of Fourth Street, said the source, who requested anonymity because the case was ongoing. No officers were injured in the shooting.
“After the initial exchange of gunfire, there were victims down at the scene,” Hunt said. “We had to extract them from the scene.”
Officers had the shooter surrounded, and were evacuating the area, the source said.
“This is a very volatile and critical situation,” Azusa Officer Jerry Willison said.
Roberto Chavez, 67, and his wife were sitting outside on their porch when they saw a heavily armed man fire at least 10 rounds at a group of people.
Police quickly responded, Chavez said. About 20 officers swarmed into the neighborhood in the 600 block of West Fourth Street, he said.
The gunman, who wore a white shirt and black pants, ran into a home about three doors down from Chavez’s house, he said.
Chavez said he recognized the man as someone who frequently visits and hangs out at his neighbor’s home. He didn’t know the man’s name. He said some of the victims appeared to be neighbors in the area.
Police told him to remain indoors because the gunman had barricaded himself inside a home.
“It’s a very dangerous situation,” he said.
Fabiola Moreno, 47, had just finished making a sandwich for her 5-year-old granddaughter and was walking to the living room where her granddaughter was watching television when she heard three gunshots.
“I thought it was just fireworks,” Moreno said, “But then I thought about it and it really sounded more like gunshots.”
Moreno walked outside and saw a man dressed in a white T-shirt with a black vest and black pants. He was armed and was walking away from the parking lot of Memorial Park.
She said the man stopped to reload his weapon and noticed her.
“I just ran inside,” she said. “I secured the door, grabbed my granddaughter and ran into the bathroom, and we locked ourselves there.”
She said from inside, she heard police sirens and more gunshots.
“I don’t know if he shot at the police or they shot at him, but it was several gunshots,” Moreno said. “I was afraid a bullet would come through the walls of the house.”
Moreno spoke to The Times by phone while locked in the room.
Police said there appears to be someone “down” inside a house but did not provide further details.
Liberata Collela and her friend Ruben Apalategui were rescued by police as the standoff ended.
She said she witnessed a gun battle between police and the suspect.
“I heard 25 or 30 shots. Maybe one after that. I was virtually on the floor,” she said. “I peaked out and saw a body in the door with feet sticking out the door. I could tell who it was.”
Collela and Apaltegui waited inside their house until SWAT officers knocked on a back window. “They evacuated us into an armored car,” she said. “Thank God we are safe.”
The Azusa Unified School District issued a lockdown for Slauson Middle and Mountain View Elementary schools about 2:15 p.m., officials said. A nearby daycare center and preschool was also locked down.
Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan said the shooting affected two polling stations.
He urged voters to avoid the area and “if necessary, cast a ballot at an alternate polling location.”