TUSTIN, California (Reuters) - A part-time college student armed with a shotgun went on a shooting rampage in southern California on Tuesday, killing a woman at his home and slaying two others during a series of carjackings before taking his own life, police said.
Authorities identified the gunman as Ali Syed, 20, and said he took the gun from a home he shared with his family in the normally quiet community of Ladera Ranch, 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The motive for the shootings was unclear.
The rolling spate of violence, which included at least one execution-style killing, spanned several miles across a number of communities in suburban Orange County, including the cities of Tustin and Santa Ana.
The violence occurred just a week after a massive manhunt for a fugitive former Los Angeles policeman wanted in a series of shootings targeting officers and their families ended in a fiery stand-off in the mountains above Los Angeles.
In Orange County, authorities first received a call on a shooting before dawn at Syed's home in Ladera Ranch, said Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jim Amormino. Officers arrived to find a woman in her 20s shot to death.
Police were still seeking to determine the relationship between her and Syed, who fled the scene in his family's sport utility vehicle and headed to the city of Tustin, about 15 miles away, Amormino said. Syed had been a student at Saddleback College, a community college in Orange County.
The gunman committed his first carjacking in Tustin, where he took a car at a gas station after shooting and wounding another motorist in a Cadillac who drove away, police said.
He then drove onto the 55 Freeway and got out of his car on a transition road where he opened fire on passing drivers, said Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan. The ensuing mayhem left one person wounded and two cars damaged, police said.
Later, at an off-ramp for the 55 Freeway, on the border between Tustin and Santa Ana, he targeted a 69-year-old man with a BMW vehicle in a second carjacking, police said.
"He orders him out of the vehicle, walks him to the side of the curb and then executes our victim," Santa Ana police spokesman Corporal Anthony Bertagna said.
Behind the wheel of the BMW, the gunman drove back into Tustin where he killed a plumber at a work site and wounded another person before driving off in a utility truck, police said.
The gunman killed himself with a shotgun after officers pulled him over in the stolen truck in the nearby city of Villa Park, police said.
"We're still investigating how many victims we might have," Tustin police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Garaven said. He added that some more people or cars may have been hit when the gunman opened fire on the 55 Freeway.
Paris Joseph, 50, who works at a Tustin gas station where Syed took a car from a motorist but did not open fire on that person, said it was fortunate no one was killed there.
"We've never had anything like this," Joseph said.
Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer