HAWAIIAN GARDENS, Calif. – HAWAIIAN GARDENS, Calif. (AP) — Six family members escaped a gunman rampaging through their house Thursday by climbing through a window and hiding on a roof as a room-to-room attack left a father, son and daughter dead and the mother critically wounded, authorities said.
Joseph Mercado, 26, is suspected of shooting and killing 25-year-old Serena Tarin, his ex-girlfriend, with an assault-style rifle in what appeared to be a domestic dispute involving custody issues with their 9-month-old son, sheriff's homicide Lt. Don Slawson said.
Mercado also poured gasoline on an exterior wall but failed to light it with a match, Slawson said.
The attack was halted when two patrol deputies rushed to the home after hearing a burst of gunfire. They confronted Mercado as he left the house carrying a gun. One of the deputies shot at Mercado, who was arrested after a bullet grazed his head.
"I believe if the deputies weren't there, we'd have a lot more deceased, and the house would be burned to the ground," Slawson said.
The attack began about 4 a.m. in a gritty Hawaiian Gardens neighborhood south of Los Angeles when the gunman shot a lock from a door and opened fire in several rooms.
"(I heard) 20 gunshots," said Linda Sanchez, a neighbor who lives about a half-block away. "Two little gunshots after that and a couple of minutes later, sirens and helicopters."
Six family members, including some children, climbed out an upstairs window and hid on the roof until deputies arrived, Slawson said.
Inside the home, authorities found the bodies of Serena Tarin and her 20-year-old brother Alfredo Tarin.
Their father Alfredo Tarin Sr., 53, died hours later at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, spokeswoman Krista Harlow said. His wife Luciana Tarin was hospitalized in critical condition.
The two patrol deputies were driving through the neighborhood when they heard gunshots and got a radio call involving shots fired.
They sped to the home and saw a man with an assault-style rifle come outside. He refused orders to drop the gun and turned toward a deputy, who fired two shots, Slawson said.
Relatives told the Los Angeles Times that Serena Tarin, who split with Mercado months after their son was born, had been seeing someone new, and Mercado was incensed.
He also clashed over the child with Serena Tarin's mother, who went by Luci.
Mercado said in court documents that Luci Tarin "threatens to take my son from me," the Times said.
Detectives recovered Mercado's pickup truck some 15 miles to the west in Torrance later Thursday.
Neighbor Javier Leon said he had been working a night shift and had just returned to his home about two blocks from the shooting scene when he heard four shots.
"I turned on my TV, and then 'boom! boom! boom! boom!'" he said.
Residents said there have been drive-by gang shootings in the modest neighborhood of small stucco and wood-framed homes, but they couldn't recall such an all-out attack.
Relatives told the Times that dozens of different members of the family had lived in the home and adjacent houses on the street for generations.
Hawaiian Gardens is a tiny city spanning about a square mile in the southeast corner of Los Angeles County. It has long been plagued by gangs and much of its revenue comes from a casino.
Associated Press video journalist John Mone, and AP Writers Robert Jablon and Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Watkins reported from Los Angeles.