Uber driver Mingzhi Zhu, a 42-year-old father of young children who lived in South Pasadena, was one of two people killed early Tuesday morning in a series of shootings carried out by a man in a Jeep Cherokee at several locations in and around downtown Los Angeles.
According to an NBC4 report, Zhu was working early Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles when the SUV pulled alongside his Cadillac Escalade. The SUV driver opened fire through the vehicle’s window.
Yuki Cutcheon, president of the South Pasadena Chinese-American Club, told the South Pasadenan newspaper that Zhu and his wife Qingchao Li left China in 2016 and have been living in an apartment on Pasadena Avenue for two years. They have two children, a son who is 8 and a 2-year-old daughter, but no other family in the area, Cutcheon said.
“He was a hard working, gentle, kind, deeply loving father and very dedicated husband,” Cutcheon told the local paper. “The family is at a total loss without him. They are struggling and dealing with this tragedy.”
As an example of his character, Cutcheon said, the family shared a story about the time an elderly passenger left $400 in Zhu’s car. “He immediately made sure to reach out and return that money right away. It would never occur to him to keep money like that. He had a lot of integrity,” Cutcheon said.
A GoFundMe account has been established in his name. The account, which set a goal of $50,000, has raised 58,040.
Police have not identified a motive for the shootings, which appeared to be random, according to The Associated Press story used for the TV station’s online report.
“This appears to be random acts of violence,” LAPD Lt. Raul Jovel told reporters. “We have no idea what precipitated this.”
The shooter, Carlos Lopez, 50, of Los Angeles died at the scene of the shootout following a police pursuit that occurred at about 5 a.m. Tuesday on the westbound Riverside (91) Freeway near Raymond Avenue in Fullerton, City News Service reported.
Lopez refused pleas from police and a family member to surrender, authorities told CNS.
“The senseless acts of violence that took the lives of two innocent people, including Mr. Mingzhi Zhu who was on his way to pick up a rider, is heartbreaking,” Uber said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with those who lost their lives and their families.”
The drive-by shootings began around 12:55 a.m. near USC when the suspect pulled alongside a victim’s vehicle and fired multiple rounds at him, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said later during a police commission meeting, The AP reported. The victim suffered a bullet graze wound to his head, and he is expected to survive.
A dashboard camera inside the victim’s vehicle captured part of the shooting and the Jeep’s license plate, which helped officers circulate a description of the car.
About 10 minutes later, another shooting occurred less than a mile away. The suspect drove alongside another vehicle — this time in a Starbucks drive-thru — and backed into it, causing a crash. The suspect then fired into the vehicle, killing a newlywed who was driving with his wife, police said.
Police believe there was a “verbal exchange” between the couple and the gunman.
The Los Angeles County coroner identified the man as 24-year-old Alexis Carbajal. A GoFundMe account established to help Carbajal’s family had raised more than $18,500 as of Wednesday morning, according to CNS.
The gunman then encountered Zhu in downtown LA at about 1:25 a.m., about 3 miles away from the scene at Starbucks. Zhu was stopped at a red light when the gunman pulled up next to him and began firing through the window, CNS reported.
A fourth incident was reported shortly after the homicide, Chief Moore said, when the suspect fired at a vehicle in an intersection. Officers spotted the suspect’s Jeep and began a long pursuit, which included the suspect firing at a white Tesla while driving. The driver was not injured.
The chase covered several freeways in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Police used spike strips to disable the Jeep on an overpass in Fullerton when a standoff with LAPD SWAT officers began.
SWAT pinned the Jeep in and attempted negotiations aimed at having the shooter surrender. Lt. Jovel said Lopez began firing at the officers through the vehicle’s front windshield, and an officer returned fire. The man shot at police a second time, the lieutenant said, prompting the officer to return fire, killing Lopez.