Three people found dead inside a vehicle involved in a Palm Springs traffic crash late Sunday night were shot, police said Tuesday, and investigators were working to determine if their deaths are related to the fatal shooting of another person found nearby a short time later.
According to Palm Springs police, a person of interest in the investigation is in custody on unrelated charges. At an afternoon news conference, police Chief Bryan Reyes declined to provide details on the person of interest, including when the man was arrested or specifically why he is jailed.
“At this time, I don’t think it’s fair to indicate what unrelated charges that the person is being held for,” Reyes said. “It is quite easy to track that person through the Riverside County system, and I’d hate for some information to get out there that falsely labels this guy as being responsible for this.”
Officers responded at 11:40 p.m. Sunday to a report of a traffic crash on Sunny Dunes and El Placer roads and found three people — one female and two males — dead inside a vehicle, police said.
Reyes said all three had been shot, but it was still not verified if they died from the gunshot wounds or the traffic collision. Autopsies were being conducted Tuesday afternoon. The trio ranged in age from 17-19, but their names have not been released pending notification of relatives.
About 35 minutes later, police received a report of a “male lying in the road” on Canon Drive south of Theresa Drive. The victim had been shot and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. His name has not been released, but police said they believe the man, who was in his 20s, was a Palm Springs resident.
Reyes said investigators were still working “across the valley, working multiple locations looking for additional information” to determine if the shootings were related, and if the person in custody can be linked to both scenes. If the four deaths are eventually determined to be related, Reyes said it is likely the worst mass killing in the city’s history.
“We cannot recall the last time we had four victims,” he said.
Other agencies involved in the investigation are the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Riverside County District Attorney’s gang-impact team and the East County Post-Release Accountability and Compliance Team.
Police asked any residents in the area of Canon Drive and Sunny Dunes Road who may have security cameras to review footage from 11:20 p.m. Sunday through 1 a.m. Monday, and contact police if they spot anything unusual on the footage.
“Just taking the time to go review your footage and see something that seems a little bit unusual and report it,” Reyes added. “That might be the smallest piece of information, but it may be the piece of information we need to progress this overall investigation.”
Anyone with information was asked to call police at (760) 323-8115. Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-7867.
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