Teenage mother and baby shot dead ‘assassination style’ in an attack likely linked to a gang or drug cartel, sheriff says.
Law enforcement officials in California have offered a $10,000 reward and asked for the public’s help in solving the “deliberate, intentional and horrific” murders of six people at a home in the state’s Central Valley.
Investigators believe a gang or drug cartel targeted the family, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told a news conference on Tuesday. Deputies had conducted a drug-related search warrant at the same home recently.
Among the dead in the 3:30am (11:30 GMT) shooting on Monday were a 17-year-old and her 10-month-old son.
Boudreaux said the teenager was fleeing the violence when the killers caught up to her outside the home in Goshen, a central California community of about 3,000 residents in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, and shot the young mother and her child “assassination-style”.
“We believe the 17-year-old girl and her infant were actually running from scene. The shooters stood over top of that 17-year-old mother and fired rounds into her head,” Boudreaux said. “It was deliberate, intentional and horrific.”
The other four victims were aged between 19 and 72 years, including a grandmother who was shot as she slept. Their autopsies are expected to be completed later in the week.
Authorities had previously listed the teen’s age as 16 and the infant’s six months but said they had received updated information.
Sheriff’s deputies responding to reports of gunshots at the home in Goshen, a small farming town roughly 350km (220 miles) southeast of San Francisco, found multiple victims both inside and in the street. Three people survived and will be interviewed by authorities. They include a man who hid in the home as the killings happened.
“It’s shocking for the nation, shocking to our county, shocking to our state, and I have to tell you I’m receiving phone calls from across the country,” Boudreaux said.
Police were searching for at least two suspects, Boudreaux said, adding they had not yet been identified. The $10,000 reward was being offered by law enforcement agencies for information that moved the investigation forward.
Boudreaux walked back his earlier comments to reporters that the attack was likely a cartel hit, saying that investigators are also looking into whether it was gang violence.
“I am not eliminating that possibility,” the sheriff said. “These people were clearly shot in the head and they were also shot in places where the shooter would know that a quick death would occur … This is also similar to high-ranking gang affiliation and the style of executions that they commit.”
Law enforcement is familiar with the home, the sheriff said, citing gang activity there that “has routinely occurred in the past” without giving any specifics. He added that not everyone who was shot was a drug dealer or gang member — and said among the victims believed to be innocent are the teen, her grandmother, and of course, the baby.
The sheriff’s department on Tuesday identified the victims as Rosa Parraz, 72; Eladio Parraz, Jr, 52; Jennifer Analla, 49; Marcos Parraz, 19; Alissa Parraz, 16; and Nycholas Parraz, 10 months.