GARDEN GROVE, CA (CN) – A 33-year-old Southern California man who “unleashed evil” in a series of random stabbings that began Wednesday afternoon killed four people, according to police.
Police say Zachary Castaneda from Garden Grove viciously stabbed several people across two cities in Orange County before he was arrested in Santa Ana.
At a press conference Thursday, police said Castaneda was arrested after he exited a 7-Eleven store with a large knife and gun. Castaneda is believed to have ambushed a security guard inside the store and stole his gun.
Police said Castaneda has an extensive criminal history with known gang affiliation and was previously convicted of possessing methamphetamine and an assault rifle.
Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney said the spree began with a robbery Wednesday afternoon at an apartment complex in Garden Grove, 34 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Police said Castaneda broke into a neighbor’s apartment and stole several items, which was reported around 4 p.m. About 20 minutes later, police received another call of an armed robbery at a bakery.
Whitney said when Castaneda returned to his apartment complex, he was confronted by the neighbors he had robbed.
There was an argument and Castaneda stabbed the two men, Whitney said. When police arrived after 5 p.m. they found one man dead on a balcony and the second man was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
Police said Castaneda then robbed a check-cashing business and a nearby insurance company, stabbing a 54-year-old woman multiple times. He also took money that was thrown at him by another employee, according to police.
Castaneda then drove his silver Mercedes to a Chevron gas station and attacked a 44-year-old man with a large machete. He nearly severed the man’s nose and then stabbed him in the back, according to Whitney.
“The suspect returned back to his car, filled it up with gas,” said Whitney.
From there, Whitney said Castaneda drove to the nearby city of Santa Ana where he killed a man outside a Subway restaurant and then walked into the 7-Eleven across the street and ambushed the security guard.
Undercover detectives who spotted Castaneda’s car outside drew their guns and ordered him to drop the knife and gun. He surrendered, said Whitney, and later told police the blood on his clothes was just tomato juice.
Whitney said there was no indication this was a hate crime.
“He unleased evil across our two cities,” said Whitney.
It’s unclear if Castaneda was under the influence of drugs, though police said he remained combative while in custody overnight.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office expects to file charges by Friday morning.