Man 'full of anger' kills 4, wounds 2 in California stabbing rampage

A man who was "full of anger" stabbed and robbed his way across two Southern California cities in what appear to be random attacks that have left four people dead and two wounded, authorities said.

33-year-old Zachary Castaneda is a documented gang member who served prison time, police said

Garden Grove police leave the scene of a stabbing in the California city. A man killed four people and wounded two in a string of robberies and stabbings before he was arrested, police said Wednesday. (Amy Taxin/The Associated Press)

Investigators believe a documented gang member stabbed four people to death and wounded two others as he targeted his victims at random during a bloody rampage across two Southern California cities, authorities said.

Zachary Castaneda, 33, from the city of Garden Grove, was "full of anger" when he carried out violent attacks and robberies at businesses and killed two men at his own apartment complex during the two-hour wave of violence Wednesday, police said.

He had a violent criminal record and had served time in prison, Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe said Thursday. Police also said that many more would likely have been killed or injured if they did not step in. 

Castaneda was arrested as he walked out of a convenience store in neighbouring Santa Ana, dropping a knife and a gun he had taken from a security guard he had just killed. 

'Robbery, hate, homicide'

The only known motives seem to be "robbery, hate, homicide," Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said at a news conference Wednesday.

"We know this guy was full of anger and he harmed a lot of people tonight," Whitney said.

The attacker and all the victims were Hispanic, police said.

The two people who were wounded were in stable condition Wednesday night and expected to survive.

One of the dead was identified by his son as a hard-working immigrant originally from Romania.

Members of a church group wait behind police lines, fearing they know the employee killed by a man stabbing people at a Subway restaurant in Santa Ana, Calif. (Alex Gallardo/The Associated Press)

Surveillance cameras caught some of the carnage.

"We have video showing him attacking these people and conducting these murders," he said.

Whitney said the man lived in a Garden Grove apartment building where he stabbed two men during some kind of confrontation. One man died inside an apartment, and another was found wounded on the balcony and died at a hospital.

Whitney said a bakery also was robbed.

The bakery owner, Dona Beltran, said she was sitting in her car charging her cellphone when she saw a tattooed man get out of a Mercedes and go inside the business. Beltran, 45, followed him inside to offer help, but kept quiet when she saw him trying to open the cash register. 

"He went directly to the register and tried to open the register ... he showed me a gun," she said. He ended up taking the entire register with him, which had about $200, she said.

Beltran then ran out of the shop and yelled she was being robbed before taking refuge in a nearby dental office, she said. 

"I think I was very lucky because he thought I was a customer, not the owner," she said.

The man also robbed an insurance business, where a 54-year-old employee was stabbed several times and was expected to survive.

He was armed with "some sort of machete knives" when he confronted the woman, Whitney said.

The woman "was very brave," Whitney said. "She fought as best she could."

Police tracked the suspect's car to the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in Santa Ana and arrested him as he exited the store where a security guard was stabbed and killed. (Alex Gallardo/The Associated Press)

An alarm company saw the robbery on a live television feed and called police.

"They could see that the female victim was on the ground with blood and multiple injuries," Whitney said.

The man then fled with cash and also robbed a cheque-cashing business next door, the lieutenant said.

Customer attacked at gas station

Shortly after 6 p.m., the attacker drove up to a Chevron station, where he attacked a man pumping gas "for no reason," Whitney said. "There was no robbery."

The man was stabbed in the back and "his nose was nearly severed off his face," the lieutenant said, and bystanders rushed to help him.

Undercover detectives tracked the suspect's silver Mercedes to the parking lot of the 7-Eleven store in Santa Ana, and within a minute of their arrival, the man came out of the store, carrying a large knife and a gun that he had cut from the belt of a security guard after stabbing him, Whitney said.

The man had followed the guard into the store and stabbed him several times during a confrontation, Whitney said.

Police ordered the man to drop his weapons, and he complied and was arrested.

Police then learned that a male employee of a nearby Subway restaurant also had been fatally stabbed during a robbery, Whitney said.

The brutal and puzzling attacks came just days after a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio left 31 people dead and stunned the nation. The shooter in El Paso apparently posted an anti-immigrant screed before killing 22 people at a Walmart on Saturday. Less than a day later, a man opened fire on a Dayton, Ohio, entertainment district, killing nine people before police shot him dead.