A Sylmar man suspected of killing three and wounding four in a series of San Fernando Valley shootings Sunday is also thought to have shot and killed two dogs the day before, police said Monday.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives on the Animal Cruelty Task Force were talking to witnesses and gathering information when one of the shootings occurred Sunday morning.

Recognizing similarities between the dog killings and the homicides, including the use of a similar weapon and a similar tan or gold SUV, police apprehended Alexander Hernandez, 34, after a one-hour standoff Sunday night at his Sylmar home, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. He was booked for animal cruelty Sunday night.

Hernandez, who has not been charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office in any of the weekend incidents, was initially listed only as a “person of interest,” but his status was changed to suspect Monday morning, said LAPD Officer Liliana Preciado of the Media Relations section.

“He is now considered a suspect in all three homicides, and we are looking at other possible crimes” in which he may have been involved recently in the area, Preciado said.

Although police at first said they were looking for two possible suspects, Smith said Monday they now believe the shooter was acting alone.


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“Our detectives continue to investigate,” he said. “It’s a very complicated case. There are separate homicide scenes. There’s evidence to be collected, evidence to be analyzed. If the detectives are able to gather enough information (linking Hernandez to the crimes), they will present it to the district attorney for filing consideration.”

At about 5:50 a.m. Sunday, a woman in her early 20s was killed and her father gravely injured in a shooting in the 1400 block of Celis Street in San Fernando. Three other relatives in the same vehicle were also injured, police said.

The family was on their way to church and was pulling over — reportedly because they were concerned about the way the SUV was driving behind them — when the shooting occurred, police said. Parishioners at Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church have identified the deceased woman as Mariana Franco and said her parents, Jose and Beatriz Franco, were among the injured.

Jose Franco remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center on Monday, while his wife remained stable but in “guarded” condition, said hospital spokeswoman Natasha Shows.

Officials said at about 6:30 a.m., a male Hispanic, initially described as being between 25 and 35 years old, was shot to death “in the same manner” at the Sylmar Recreational Center in the 13000 block of Borden Avenue. Then about 15 minutes later, a Hispanic woman believed to be in her 50s and reportedly heading to nearby Guardian Angel Catholic Church, was fatally shot in a stopped vehicle in the 12900 block of Filmore Street in Pacoima.

LAPD detectives have directed the coroner not to release the identities of the three deceased victims, said Ed Winter, assistant chief of investigations at the L.A. County Department of Coroner.

Smith said it appears the victims were randomly targeted.

“I can’t explain what would cause a human being to do this to someone else’s dogs or random people he came across,” Smith said. “It’s inexplicable.”

Jorge Ortiz, a parishioner at Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church, asked the community to keep the Franco family and the other victims in their prayers. Ortiz said Jose Franco, who is a Eucharist minister leader for Spanish-language parishioners, is “a very devoted leader to the church” and “a great family man.”

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” Ortiz said. “This community of Santa Rosa has been hit by tragedy hard in the last year or so.”

In January, a family of four that also belonged to the church died in a Sylmar house fire, he said.

Sunday’s “victims were longtime parishioners who were well-loved, well-respected and generous in their services to the Catholic Church,” said a spokeswoman with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in a statement. Services have not been scheduled yet.

Detectives are looking at similar recent shootings — including a woman injured by gunfire while exiting the 5 Freeway at Colorado Boulevard in Atwater Village on Wednesday — to see if they might be connected, police said.

Hernandez was convicted of possession of methamphetamine in 2004, possession of a controlled substance in 2006 and of being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2012, according to Los Angeles Superior Court records.

Police are asking anyone with information related to the shootings to call 1-877-LAPD-247. They can also call in tips anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

Staff writers Susan Abram and Larry Altman contributed to this report.