The devastating shooting spree in Bakersfield, California, appears to have been a “well-planned” attack targeting five victims, including the gunman’s ex-wife, authorities revealed Thursday.
“The way that this went down, it appears this is well planned,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Thursday of the bloody rampage that left six people dead.
“We’re seeing this across the nation, people taking handguns and shooting people with more than one victim at a time,” he added at the afternoon press conference. “It’s just something that I hope we don’t become immune to.”
The violence began round 5:20 p.m. Wednesday, when the suspect, identified as 54-year-old Javier Cazarez, and his 45-year-old ex-wife, Petra Maribel Bolaños de Cazarez, entered a trucking business in an industrial complex. Authorities said Thursday it was “very possible” Cazarez had “forced” her into the building.
“When they got there, they confronted the employee of T&T trucking,” Youngblood said. That employee has been identified as 50-year-old Manuel Contreras.
During the confrontation, Cazarez fatally shot Contreras with “one of largest handguns ever made,” Youngwood said. “He then turned the gun on his wife and shot her.”
Another man, 50-year-old Antonio Valdez, heard the gunshots and showed up at the scene, Youngblood explained. After a brief chase, Cazarez allegedly shot and killed Valdez in front of the sporting-goods store “Bear Mountain Sports.”
But the bloodshed didn’t end there. Taking Valdez’s car, the suspect went to a nearby home, where he fatally shot two other victims, whom authorities have now identified as 31-year-old Laura Garcia and her father, Eliseo Garcia, according to police.
“We believe that [Laura] may have tried to intervene and keep the suspect from approaching her father and he shot both of them,” the sheriff said.
In a final attempt to flee, Cazarez carjacked a vehicle with a woman and child still inside, the sheriff said. The gunman told the woman and child that he “was not a bad guy” and let them escape, he said.
“It made us believe the others were targeted for a specific reason,” Youngblood said.
As he drove down a nearby highway, a deputy sheriff confronted Cazarez,“telling him to put his gun down several times,” the sheriff said. The man then shot himself in the stomach and died at the scene.
All told, the tragedy left six people dead in less than 15 minutes. A family member told The Daily Beast that Laura Garcia was “a loving mother who will be missed by all who knew her.” According to an ABC local affiliate, police said the suspect knew Laura’s father and had been to his home before.
Authorities are now working to find an exact motive in the shooting and determine how each of the victims are connected.
“It appears that the suspect targeted each of his victims,” said Youngblood at the press conference, showing newly released body-camera footage of Cazarez.
Youngblood added that the suspect and his ex-wife “divorced about four months ago,” and she had recently filed a change to their agreement. The couple has three children together.
“We don’t know if that is the catalyst but we believe it has indications of domestic violence,” the sheriff said.
On Wednesday, Youngblood revealed that police are interviewing at least 30 witnesses.
“Obviously, there’s some type of situation that caused the husband to be extremely upset,” Youngblood said. “We’re trying to find the connection.”
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office declined The Daily Beast’s request for additional comment.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement on Thursday about the shooting, pointing to the “epidemic of gun violence” that “stole more innocent lives.”
“As more information emerges about yesterday’s horrific shooting, Congress must finally meet our responsibility to protect Americans from the daily scourge of gun violence,” she said. “We must respond not only with thoughts and prayer, but with action to ensure no other family or community has to endure this unspeakable pain.”