By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of committing three apparently random shotgun slayings within a single hour on Sunday is also under investigation for possible ties to several other shootings in recent months, police said on Tuesday.
Alexander Hernandez, 34, was first identified as a suspect by animal cruelty investigators in connection with the fatal shootings of two dogs on Saturday near his home in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, police said.
Los Angeles Police Department Commander Andrew Smith said evidence in the animal cruelty case led homicide detectives to Hernandez after two women and a man were gunned down in quick succession on Sunday. Hernandez was arrested that evening.
He is believed to have acted alone, Smith said. Police reported earlier that it appeared a shotgun used to shoot the dogs was also the weapon in Sunday's three homicides.
Those shootings began when a gunman opened fire on a family of five headed to church about 6 a.m., killing a 23-year-old woman and leaving her parents critically injured. Her two siblings suffered minor injuries, according to police.
Less than half an hour later, a 29-year-old woman was shot to death walking outside a nearby recreation center, and a second woman, aged 59, was shot and killed 10 minutes after that while waiting for a friend before church.
Smith said there was no immediate evidence linking the suspected killer to his victims, and investigators had no motive for the slayings.
"We can't come up with a reason why he would target three people like that, or why he killed a person's dogs," he told Reuters. "We don't know what would possess a person to do that."
Smith said detectives were also looking into several unsolved shootings in the region that resemble Sunday's slayings for possible connections to Hernandez, although he was not considered a suspect in those incidents.
The Los Angeles Times reported that investigators had identified at least six shootings over the past five months that bear striking similarities to Sunday's gun violence.
Hernandez was slated to make his first court appearance on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said there was no information immediately available from prosecutors on the case.
(Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Peter Cooney)