Gunman, Victims ID'd in Deadly California Rampage - NECN
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Gunman, Victims ID'd in Deadly California Rampage

The Kern County Sheriff called the shootings devastating for Bakersfield, especially for young children who may have witnessed their mother's death

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    NEWSLETTERS

    'Messy' Divorce May Be Motive in Deadly Bakersfield Shooting

    Investigators say a "messy" divorce may have been the motive in Wednesday's deadly shooting spree in Bakersfield, California. The gunman, Javier Casarez, killed his ex-wife and four other people before killing himself. (Published Friday, Sept. 14, 2018)

    A gunman in Southern California on Wednesday fatally shot his ex-wife and a man at a trucking company before a nearly 40-minute rampage in which he chased after another man, killing him, and then drove to a home where he shot dead a father and daughter.

    Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood identified the killer as 54-year-old Javier Casarez at a news conference about the shootings that claimed five victims in Bakersfield, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

    Casarez fatally shot himself as a deputy closed in on him shortly after the shooting.

    Court records show Casarez filed for a divorce from his wife, Petra Maribel Bolanos de Casarez, in December and that it was finalized on April 12.

    Bolanos recently filed for a change involving child support and custody over the couple's two teenage children, and the pair had a hearing set for Oct. 11, court records show.

    Youngblood said it appears that Casarez targeted every victim, starting with a worker at T & T Trucking, and that domestic violence appears to have played a large part.

    "It appears to be there's more than just husband and wife having a fight because other people were targeted," he said. "There's a reason for that and we need to find that reason."

    Casarez likely took his ex-wife to the trucking company against her will and then fatally 50-year-old Manuel Contreras with a .50-caliber handgun. He shot his ex-wife and then turned the gun on a second man, 50-year-old Antonio Valadez, the sheriff's department said.

    Casarez fired at Valadez as he ran away, but then tracked him down in his car and killed him, the sheriff said.

    Casarez then drove to the house of 57-year-old Eliseo Garcia Cazares, who Youngblood identified as a friend. Casarez fatally shot Garcia and his daughter, 31-year-old Laura Garcia, who may have been collateral damage.

    "She may have tried to intervene to keep the suspect from approaching her father, and he shot and killed both of them," Youngblood said.

    After the shooting at the Garcia home, Casarez carjacked a woman driving with her child. The woman and child escaped, and Casarez drove to a highway where a sheriff's deputy saw him, Youngblood said.

    As the deputy closed in, yelling at Casarez to drop his gun, Casarez fatally shot himself in the stomach, according to graphic body camera footage released by police on Facebook.

    The video shows deputies and paramedics working to save Casarez as blood gushes from his stomach and the exit wound in his back. Deputies look over Casarez's gun and talk about how he would have had to reload it during the rampage.

    From the first to last shot fired, just 37 minutes passed.

    David Bunting, who said he's a friend of Eliseo Garcia Cazares and lives two doors down from him, said he has no idea why his neighbor would have been targeted.

    He said Garcia was a self-employed truck driver who always was with his grandkids when not working, often driving them around on his golf cart.

    "He's a really nice guy. I can't say enough good things about him," Bunting said. "It's kind of a shock because of the kind of a person he was."

    He said his daughter Laura was a mother of four and that most of the Garcias' large family was home at the time of the shooting. He said they're devastated and in shock.

    He said Eliseo Garcia Cazares and his wife had four grown children, including a daughter who was killed in a car accident a few years ago.

    About 30 people saw the shootings and were being interviewed by deputies, Youngblood said.

    He said investigators are looking into whether Casarez's ex-wife may have had relationships with Contreras or Valadez.

    He said Casarez was a legal permanent resident of the U.S. and that it wasn't immediately known whether he legally owned the .50-caliber gun he used in the shootings or whether he had a criminal record.

    He called the shootings devastating for Bakersfield, especially for Laura Garcia's children, who may have witnessed their mother's death.

    "These young children, when they see this, that's something that will stay with them the rest of their lives," he said. "But officers ... they're also not immune to those emotions. Those cases stay with them their entire career, so this has a far-reaching impact on a lot of people in our community and in our department."