MORENO VALLEY – Moreno Valley’s police chief said today that a man who went on a shooting spree that claimed the lives of two people and left a deputy wounded acted alone, though a motive remained elusive.
”I don’t have any idea who he is or why he did it,” said Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. Joel Ontiveros, who serves as Moreno Valley’s top law enforcement officer. ”As soon as we have the details, that information will be shared.”
He said there is a ”possibility of some relationship between (the suspect) and the deceased.”
He would not confirm media reports in which family members identified the victims as Wilma Patterson, 74, and her son-in-law, 58-year-old Derek Hardy.
According to Ontiveros, the sheriff’s department got a call around 2:25 p.m. Tuesday of a shooting outside the Shell station at Sunnymead Ranch Parkway and Old Lake Drive.
Deputies sent to the scene began searching for possible suspects, relying on a citywide camera system put in place for security purposes, and found an abandoned getaway vehicle on the northern end of Pigeon Pass Road.
A patrolman spotted a pedestrian walking along the roadway, not far from the vehicle and tried to make contact with the man, who opened fire with a rifle, Ontiveros said.
The deputy, who suffered an unspecified injury, returned fire and called for help on his radio, stating an ”officer is down,” according to Ontiveros.
SWAT units from the sheriff’s department and Riverside Police Department, along with several dozen patrol officers and deputies from neighboring agencies, swarmed the area. At one point, public safety personnel from 20 agencies were on hand, Ontiveros said.
Several men doing landscaping work outside an unoccupied house at 8555 Pigeon Pass Road witnessed the deputy-involved shooting and ran for cover. One of the landscapers, identified only as a 24-year-old area resident, leapt into a ravine and broke his hip or leg.
A Riverside police armored personnel carrier, loaded with police officers, was brought to the scene to retrieve the 24-year-old man, who was pulled to safety and placed in an ambulance around 4:15 p.m.
The deputy who traded shots with the suspect was treated for a minor injury at Riverside County Regional Medical Center and went home last night to begin recuperating, according to sheriff’s officials.
Patterson was discovered fatally shot in a white SUV parked outside the Shell station, which is just under three miles driving distance from where the deputy encountered the gunman.
Hardy was located around 3:50 p.m. in a pool of blood inside a house in the 25500 block of Delphinium Avenue.
”I don’t know all the stories. I’m just trying to figure out why this happened,” Randy Green, identified as a relative of Patterson, told reporters. ”How did all this happen? How did it all start? It’s ridiculous to gun down an innocent woman.”
Ontiveros said the suspect’s body was located around 2:15 this morning in ”heavy vegetation” just off Pigeon Pass Road, where deputies had been conducting a massive manhunt.
The gunman may have died by his own hand, but sheriff’s officials had confirmed nothing as of this afternoon.
According to reports from the scene, three spent .223 shell casings were discovered, along with a towel that witnesses indicated the suspect used to conceal his identity.