Police are now saying they believe a drug cartel was behind the shooting that killed six people in Central California, including a 6-month-old baby and her 17-year-old mother.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office told KFSN that the shooting occurred in Goshen just after 3:30 a.m. and that people who called 9-1-1 thought there was an active shooter in the neighborhood due to the number of shots they heard. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told the Los Angeles Times that the crime is likely a targeted attack.
“I think it’s specifically connected to the cartel,” Boudreaux told the outlet. “The level of violence … this was not your run-of-the-mill low-end gang member.”
“If [they] are specifically shooting everyone in the head, they know what they are doing … [and] they are comfortable with what they are doing,” the sheriff added.
The names and ages of all the victims have not been released, but authorities told the Times that some appeared to be family members.
Boudreaux also told the outlet that a sheriff’s deputy found the youngest victim, the 6-month-old baby, was found cradled in her 17-year-old mother’s arms in a ditch outside of the home where the massacre occurred. Both had been shot in the head.
A third female victim, an elderly woman, appeared to have been “shot in her sleep,” Boudreaux said. Three men were also killed, one of whom was alive when deputies arrived but died later at the hospital. At least one of the men will need to be identified using DNA testing because his face was so damaged by the weapon or weapons used in the attack.
Two women survived the shooting by hiding in a trailer home, the Times reported. They told police that people on the property saw the shooters approaching via surveillance cameras.
“They could see two men sneaking onto the property … but by the time they came on [the video feed], it was too late to do anything,” Boudreaux said.
County Supervisor Eddie Valero said the deaths were “everyone’s worst nightmare.”
“These senseless acts of violence, especially with infants, children and young adults, have no place in our communities,” Valero said in a statement to the Times.
Police also said they believe there were two shooters and that the incident was related to gang activity. Authorities continue to search for clues as to what motivated the shooting, the Visalia Times Delta reported. A search warrant had been served on the house just one week prior, with police looking for narcotics. Boudreaux told the Times that a man was arrested during the search and that guns, marijuana, and methamphetamine had been seized.
Tulare County is a hotbed of drug trafficking, with cartels moving drugs from Mexico to Tulare and on to the rest of the United States. Jose Maria Guizar Valencia, former leader of the Zetas cartel, was born in Tulare, while others involved in Mexico’s drug wars have been tied to the county as well, the Times reported.