Man held in LA serial shootings appears in court

August 27, 2014 - 5:35 PM
Deadly Shootings

Los Angeles Police Department officers investigate the scene of a shooting Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, where one person was killed near the 14400 block of Polk Street in Sylmar, Calif. Describing what they called “a major public threat,” Los Angeles police said they are seeking clues to three separate shootings in the Northeast San Fernando Valley that left three people dead and four others injured early Sunday morning and appear to be connected. A suspect in the shootings was taken into custody by SWAT officers Sunday night after holing up inside a house in the Sylmar neighborhood for about an hour, Capt. William Hayes said. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Daily News, Dean Musgrove)

SAN FERNANDO, Calif. (AP) — A man accused of going on a five-day rampage of serial shootings in the Los Angeles area made his first court appearance Wednesday on charges that could lead to the death penalty.

Alexander Hernandez waived arraignment during his brief appearance in Los Angeles County Superior Court in the San Fernando Valley, where authorities say he carried out most of his crimes.

He spoke only to say, "Yes, sir," when asked if he understood that his public defender asked to waive the proceeding.

Judge Michael O'Gara ordered Hernandez held without bail and set the next court appearance for Sept. 17.

Hernandez, 34, was arrested after shootings that left three people and two dogs dead, and four people critically injured.

Prosecutors charged him with one count of capital murder, two counts of attempted murder and three counts of animal cruelty. Charges in the other shootings are expected later.

"This man is and was a serial killer," Bill McSweeney, Los Angeles County sheriff's chief of detectives, said Tuesday.

Police gave a chronological outline of the shootings investigators believe Hernandez committed. They were apparently random and there was no known motive or link between the victims.

— On Aug. 20 at 6 a.m., a 42-year-old woman was shot and wounded in northeast Los Angeles as she exited a freeway by a lone man in an SUV.

— On Aug. 21 at 5 a.m., Gildardo Morales, 48, was shot and killed by a man alone in an SUV in the Pacoima area. It's the only death with which Hernandez has been charged so far.

— On Aug. 22 at 11 p.m., a man fired at a couple in a pickup truck in West Hollywood. They escaped without injury.

— On Aug. 23 at 11:30 a.m., a lone man shot three dogs in Pacoima, injuring two of them.

— On Aug. 24 at 5:50 a.m., a man in an SUV fired on five family members, killing a 23-year-old woman. Within an hour, another 29-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman were each shot and killed before Hernandez was arrested by SWAT officers.

Police said Hernandez had a pistol-grip shotgun in his possession that investigators believe was used in the attacks. He has not been cooperative with officers, said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese.

Police believe Hernandez worked alone, and he is the sole suspect in the shootings. Detectives pieced together the incidents because of the timing, weapon used and descriptions of the vehicle, McSweeney said. Investigators will be reviewing unsolved shootings dating back several years that involve similar descriptions of a tan or gold SUV and shotgun.

Hernandez has served prison time and has four prior convictions, including possession for sale of methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, and possession of a firearm by a felon, authorities said.

The charges against Hernandez carry a potential death penalty.


Abdollah reported from Los Angeles and can be reached at .