A long-simmering family feud over money boiled over early Wednesday when a 73-year-old Escondido man killed three relatives and critically wounded a fourth, according to police.
Ali Zafar, of Escondido, was arrested on suspicion of homicide shortly after the shootings inside an apartment in Fontana, police Sergeant Kevin Goltara said.
The 73-year-old shooting suspect surrendered to authorities at the property, police said, adding that the victims and gunman are family members. In a statement issued later Wednesday morning, police said the victims were killed “over a longstanding financial family issue.”
When officers entered the apartment, they found two women and one man dead from gunshot wounds. Another male victim was taken to a hospital in critical condition.
NBC Los Angeles reported, citing police sources, that the victims were Zafar’s nieces and nephews and the killings stemmed from a long-standing financial dispute.
Six gunshots were reported shortly before 3 a.m. and responding officers confronted a male suspect with a gun walking inside the Village Drive Apartments at 14520 Village Drive in Fontana, Goltara said.
The man, later identified as Ali Zafar, complied with orders to drop the gun and was taken into custody without further incident, according to police.
Police Sgt. Keith Zagorin told the Sun newspaper that the shootings took place inside a second-floor apartment, and it appears at least one person was shot while asleep in bed.
Another woman in the home managed to flee the apartment unharmed, police said.
Officials said the two-bedroom apartment had a modified living room where people slept.
Neighbor Eddie Frias told The Press-Enterprise that the man who was critically wounded in the shooting sought refuge inside an apartment occupied by Frias’ sister.
According to Frias, the injured man said his uncle shot him in the mouth and his sister proceeded to try and stop the victim’s bleeding using towels.
‘It took three large bath towels and they were just soaked in blood,’ Frias recounted.
The neighbor said the wounded survivor ran out of his apartment and sought safety in Frias’ sister’s unit. “He told my sister that his uncle shot him in the mouth,” said Frias, who was at work in Los Angeles when the shooting occurred. “She said he was yelling for help and she told him to come up.”
Once inside, the 33-year-old woman tried to stop the man’s bleeding by using bath towels. Frias’ family was not injured, but he was shaken up at how close the shooting had come to his family. “A wall separates the apartments, so they’re right next to each other,” said Frias, who lives in a different area of the same complex.
Police did not confirm the shooter was the wounded man’s uncle but did say the victims and gunman are related. Officials say this was a two-bedroom apartment with a modified living room where people slept. It is unclear how many people lived in the unit.
Zafar had arrived at the apartment only the night before and was visiting, police said. “It looks like the family was planning a trip for (Wednesday,)” Goltara said.
Fontana Herald News reported that the man was then transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery.
Zafar was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. Zafar told investigators that his family members owed him money, police told NBC4 Los Angeles.
The gunman, who was holding the weapon when officers arrived, was arrested at the scene, police said.
It was not immediately clear whether Zafar had an attorney.