Three young boys were stabbed to death and left to die in the back seat of a car near a Los Angeles elementary school on Wednesday.
Police say the culprit appears to be their father, who allegedly killed the children and then tried to turn the blade on himself, police said. The man, identified by the Los Angeles Times as Luis Fuentes, was taken to a local hospital with stab wounds to the chest and will be arrested if he survives his wounds, Los Angeles Police Officer Matthew Ludwig said.
The horrific scene gripped Los Angeles, which is already reeling from a spike in homicides this summer. In August, 39 killings drove a year-to-date uptick in murders in the nation's second-largest city, according to police statistics. The 39 killings in August are compared with 22 the previous month and 19 last August.
"These are horrific incidents," said Los Angeles Police Chief, Charlie Beck. "These are incidents that have scarred not only a community but the first responders that have to handle them."
"It is a sad day in LA," he said.
The motive was unclear and is being investigated. The father had no history of domestic violence charges or arrests, police said.
The area where the children, Luis, Juan and Alexander, ages 8 to 12, were killed became a makeshift shrine. Dozens gathered on the sidewalk and placed flowers, and Doritos and Cheez-Its along with smiling photos of the kids, according to the Los Angeles Times.
John Sorrentino, whose furniture store is next to the crime scene, said he was the one who first spotted the bloody scene and called 911.
"I saw this man behind the steering wheel covered in blood," he said. "I got a little bit closer, and I saw a young child in the back seat and his eyes were half open and he was covered in blood.
"He was staring out, just in space. It's still etched in my mind."
Sorrentino said he then saw another motionless boy bent over a seat, and in the back, a leg of the third boy lying upright. That's when he ran inside his store and called 911.
The three boys did not attend the elementary school next to the crime scene, Beck said, but they are enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Beck said the boys' mother is deceased and that their stepmother was safe and being interviewed by detectives.
It was unclear whether the boys lived with their father.
Daniel Avalos, who works for Sorrentino and has five children between the ages of 3 and 12, said he saw paramedics pulling the man out of the car and one of the children still in the back.
"We're in South-Central, so stuff like that kind of happens around here. But the fact that it's children — that's heart-wrenching," Avalos said. "It's hard to think about."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.