“Happy Sunday to you all,” a Unified Homes real estate broker posted on Facebook, alongside a photo of her desk, accessorized with a pot of pink orchids. “Doing what I love is just the best feeling in the world.”
Days later, the scene was significantly grimmer.
On March 31 about 5:30 p.m., a man opened fire at the 202 W. Lincoln Avenue building. A nine-year-old boy was among the victims.
The Facebook poster was not among the victims, and declined April 1 to comment on the colleagues she lost in the shooting.
“This is a very sensitive time for the family,” she said. “We are not going to say anything.”
The adult victims were employees of Unified Homes, said a relative, who was waiting April 1 to learn the identity of the critically wounded woman.
The shootings were not an isolated incident, the Orange Police Department said April 1.
“The preliminary motive is believed to be related to a business and personal relationship which existed between the suspect and all of the victims,” Lt. Jennifer Amat told reporters during an April 1 press briefing.
“It appears all of the adults were connected either by business or a personal relationship, and this was not a random act of violence. The child is believed to be the son of one of the victims who worked at the business.”
The suspected shooter, identified as 44-year-old Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, suffered a gunshot wound and was taken to hospital in critical but stable condition. Police said the suspect used bicycle-type cable locks to secure the gate leading to the building before opening fire.
Gonzalez had most recently been living out of an Anaheim hotel room, and drove a rental car to the shooting scene, police said.
Vania Tovar, whose father owns Unified Homes and who knew some of the victims, recognized the suspect.
“He was the husband of an ex-employee who has not worked there for two years,” she told The Epoch Times. “There was no business relation there.”
He was not mentally ill, she said.
“Everything was premeditated,” Tovar said. “He is not crazy. There is no insanity there. Just pure evil.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he would do everything in his power to bring justice to the victims’ families.
He called the shootings a “horrific massacre.”
“I’m here to make something very, very clear,” Spitzer told reporters. “Mr. Gonzalez is eligible for the death penalty. This is a special circumstances case—there were multiple victims. And we are now presently looking at whether his locking of the front and the back gates constituted a lying in wait, which would also be eligible for death.”
Police previously told The Epoch Times the incident was the city’s worst mass shooting in more than two decades.
“Orange is a very safe city, so we don’t have incidents like this that happen very often. We have not had anything like this happen since the 1997 Caltrans shooting, so this is very unusual,” Amat said.
Five people were killed and two others wounded in that 1997 shooting after a former state employee, Arturo Reyes Torres, 41, of Huntington Beach, opened fire at the Caltrans facility near Batavia Street and Taft Avenue. Torres was shot and killed by police a short distance away from the maintenance yard.
“Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to those victims, their families. Our community really is impacted, as well as our department, so it’ll be a long process to get through this for many people,” Amat said.
The shooting took place on the building’s second floor. The incident drew a heavy law enforcement presence with more than a dozen police cars and a SWAT vehicle at the building, including fire engines from multiple fire departments.
Julio, who lives in the Georgian Apartments across the street from the office building, told The Epoch Times he returned home from work around 8 p.m. after receiving messages about the shooting.
“I was at work the whole time it happened. I had a little time to check my phone at work, and I had a whole bunch of messages” saying there’s a shooting, Julio said. “I thought it was crazy, cause you see it all over the news, and … it happened literally right here.”