After three previous postponements, arraignment for the man charged with killing four people, including a 9-year-old boy, in a shooting rampage in Orange was rescheduled again Wednesday.
The arraignment of Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, has been delayed repeatedly due to the defendant’s apparent incapacitation in a hospital. Gonzalez was shot last Wednesday by police in the courtyard of the building at 202 W. Lincoln Ave. in Orange, where the mass shooting took place.
An arraignment Thursday remains uncertain as well. Defense attorneys will alert the judge and prosecutors if they are able to communicate with the defendant so a hearing can go forward.
Assistant Public Defender Ken Morrison told Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham on Wednesday morning that his client remained unable to communicate with his attorneys.
The dilemma for the judge and attorneys involved in the case is Gonzalez’s incapacitation due to the injuries he suffered before his arrest last week. The defendant cannot talk to his attorneys before entering a plea, and the attorneys cannot even take a required legal waiver to reschedule the arraignment.
A hearing Tuesday grew heated when Morrison attempted to explain why he was appearing remotely and not from his client’s hospital room. Morrison could not elaborate on why he believed the defendant was incapable of either participating in an arraignment or agreeing to a continuance.
Pham ordered Morrison and another attorney on his team to go to the defendant’s hospital room Tuesday afternoon, and when she asked Morrison to put his client on camera to judge his condition for herself, Morrison assured her the defendant was in no condition to talk to his attorneys.
“I would like to personally apologize if I added to the frustration this morning,” Morrison told Pham. “Perhaps all you needed to hear is if we can communicate with our client.”
Morrison did not want to put his client on the courtroom camera because, “I am trying to be mindful of the rights of my client,” and, he added, “I can unequivocally represent to the court that Mr. Gonzalez’s counsel is unable to communicate with him due to his medical condition.”
Pham told Morrison, “No apologizes are necessary,” and chalked up the disagreement to a “little misunderstanding.”
Morrison said Tuesday he has also been unable to get any specific medical information on his client.
“The last information I have is he is still in the hospital and still incapacitated,” the judge said of the defendant.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis said an investigator from his office spoke with sheriff’s deputies guarding the defendant, who reported the same.
Morrison said, “I don’t personally believe he is in any condition to be arraigned or make knowing or intelligent decisions about his case.”
Gonzalez was charged Friday with multiple murder and attempted murder charges, making him eligible for the death penalty if he’s convicted. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to purse the ultimate punishment.
On Friday, Morrison said in court — via a video conference from his client’s bedside — that the defendant remained unconscious at that time. Since then, Gonzalez has opened his eyes, but is unable to communicate with his attorneys, he said.
The charges against Gonzalez include four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder of a police officer and one count of attempted murder. He also faces a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders and sentence enhancements alleging the personal discharge of a firearm causing death, premeditation, personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury, personal use of a firearm and personal discharge of a firearm.
Police say the defendant specifically targeted Unified Homes, a real estate company selling manufactured homes, and was acquainted either personally or professionally with all of the victims, who were identified by police as 50-year-old company co-owner Luis Tovar; his daughter, 28-year-old Jenevieve Raygoza; 9-year-old Matthew Farias; and company employee Leticia Solis Guzman, 58.
Raygoza, who worked for her father’s company, is survived by her husband and two young children. The 9-year-old boy’s mother, Blanca Ismeralda Tamayo, remains hospitalized in critical condition.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the child’s family pay for funeral costs. The boy’s father, Rafael Arias, told ABC7 that his only child had hoped to be an astronaut or a police officer.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a Thursday news conference that “a little boy died in his mother’s arms as she was trying to save him during this horrific massacre.”
The first of multiple 911 calls came in seconds before 5:35 p.m. Wednesday, according to Orange Police Department Lt. Jennifer Amat. The caller said a man was shooting into a business from across the street, she said. The first officers arrived on scene at 5:36 p.m.
Police were initially unable to enter due to bicycle cable locks that the suspect used to secure the north and south gates of the courtyard from the inside, Amat said. Two officers spotted him in the courtyard, and the shooting that left the suspect wounded happened through the gate before they were able to get inside, Amat said.
A sergeant who responded to the scene had bolt cutters in the squad car that officers used to lop off the locks, she said. After officers gained access to the courtyard, they tended to the suspect and the boy’s mother.
Officers eventually found three more deceased victims. One woman was found on an upstairs outdoor landing; one man was found inside an office building; and another woman was found inside a separate building.
Police recovered a semi-automatic handgun inside the complex, along with a backpack containing pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition believed to belong to the suspect, Amat said.
Gonzalez, whose last known address was in Fullerton, had recently been living out of a motel room in Anaheim, Amat said, and arrived at the business in a rental car.
Other details on Gonzalez’s background were not provided, but Amat said the “preliminary motive is believed to be related to a business and personal relationship” between the suspect and the victims.
Gonzalez’s ex-wife, Aleyda Mendoza, used to work for United Homes. She told the Orange County Register that she has no idea what sparked the shootings.
According to Orange County Superior Court records, the suspect was charged in April 2015 with misdemeanor counts of child abuse and endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and battery in a case in which he allegedly assaulted a boy in his care or custody with an umbrella on March 31, 2015, in Anaheim.
The child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and dissuading a witness counts were dismissed on Nov. 30, 2015, and the battery charge was dismissed on Sept. 26, 2017, because of a law that allows for the expunging of convictions if a defendant clears probation successfully.