Zachary Castaneda, identified by police as a street gang member, is accused in the random stabbing spree in Garden Grove and Santa Ana, California that left four people dead. Part of the disturbing spree was captured on video.
“He has been identified as a documented gang member,” said the Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe. “This person should have been in prison and not allowed to be in our community committing these violent acts.”
He added: “As a police chief, I implore our policy makers to reevaluate their policies on criminal justice. The pendulum has swung so far that it is increasingly difficult to keep our communities safe from the rise in violent crime.”
On social media, Castaneda ranted about his ex-wife and the police.
What was the motive? “Robbery, hate, homicide,” Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said. Castaneda is 33-years-old. Two other people were wounded in the string of random attacks. Authorities have identified three of the victims so far; they are Pascual Rioja Lorenzo, 39; Helmuth Hauprich, 62; and Robert Parker, 58. The other deceased victim is also a man.
The two injured victims are a 54-year-old woman and 44-year-old man.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Stabbing Rampage Involved Multiple Victims & Businesses
Police say the mass stabbing attack started with a burglary in Garden Grove just after 4 p.m. on August 7, 2019. A few minutes later, another report came in of a robbery two miles away at M Bakery.
In that instance, the suspect is accused of robbing the bakery while armed, but no one was injured. Next, police say, Castaneda allegedly went home and stabbed two men outside his apartment complex. The two men were roommates, and one was located outside and the other inside the apartment, according to police. One of those men was Hauprich.
Next, the Cash & More store was robbed. By that time, it was after 5:30 p.m. Then, a woman was stabbed multiple times at Best One Insurance in what was also an armed robbery.
The rampage wasn’t over, though. Police say Castaneda’s next victim was a customer he stabbed to death at a Subway restaurant in Santa Ana.
After that attack, he’s accused of stabbing a security guard to death at a Santa Ana 7-Eleven.
Garden Grove Police Chief DaRe expressed deep condolences to the families of the victims.
“The communities of Garden Grove and Santa Ana were preyed upon by a violent individual who had no remorse or care for the safety of anyone for himself,” the police chief said in the news conference.
He said the Garden Grove police department had deployed all personnel to the area. “We activated elements of our SWAT team that specialize in the apprehension of violent and dangerous suspects,” he said.
“Undercover detectives located the suspect’s vehicle in front of the 7-Eleven,” the chief said. “As the SWAT team and undercover investigators began to converge on the parking lot, the suspect exited the 7-Eleven armed with a handgun and a large knife.”
According to the chief, “As officers began to give commands, the suspect quickly dropped the weapons and surrendered to officers. It is my belief that the Garden Grove police officers’ response in apprehension of this individual saved the lives of many other community members.”
2. Castaneda Has a Long Criminal History & Was Free on Bail
This isn’t Zachary Castaneda’s first time running afoul of the law. He has a lengthy criminal history for drugs and firearms offenses. And the fact he was free in the community has the police chief very upset.
According to The Associated Press, Castaneda’s criminal history includes time in prison for possession of meth for sale while armed with an assault rifle and car theft.
In fact, he was free on bail at the time of the stabbing on a charge of carrying a concealed dagger, AP reported.
Chief Tom DaRe said the suspect should have been in prison.
“Based on his prior arrest record, he is a violent individual who should have never been considered for early release based on Assembly Bill 109,” he said.
“California law enforcement agencies have been crippled by AB109, and offenders are not being held accountable for their crimes… our community becomes vulnerable when these criminals are released back into society and are able to commit further acts of violence.”
According to the Orange County Register, though, state prison officials say Castaneda was not released early from prison.
He had been sentenced to four years in prison. “He was eligible to earn one day of additional credit for each day served, which cut his sentence in half,” the newspaper reported. “Police said Garden Grove-Santa Ana stabbing suspect Zachary Castaneda was on the street because of #AB109. Not so, according to prison officials. He was freed after serving his full term,” wrote Todd Harmonson, senior editor for the newspaper, on Twitter.
3. Castaneda’s Wife Previously Sought a Restraining Order Against Him
The suspect’s alleged penchant for violence spilled over into his marriage, AP reported.
According to the Associated Press, his own mother, who was living with him, once inquired about how to evict him and his wife, Yessica Rodriguez, sought a restraining order against him twice, once alleging he broke her arm.
She also alleged that he threw a beer can at her teenage daughter, and she filed for divorce earlier this year, gaining custody of two young sons, AP reported.
On Facebook, Castaneda posted a lengthy rant about his ex-wife, saying she had come to the home with Garden Grove police. He also posted disparaging remarks about her.
Jail booking records reviewed by Heavy give Castaneda’s occupation as “laborer.”
4. A Horrific Video Showed Castaneda Allegedly Stabbing a Woman
Surveillance video emerged that allegedly shows Zachary Castaneda stabbing a woman in Best One Insurance.
In the video, which you can watch above (be forewarned that it’s disturbing), the man walks up to the woman, who is seated at a desk. Suddenly, he takes out a knife and goes behind her.
The video ends there. The Garden Grove police chief called it a “chaotic event…had the suspect continued his rampage, he could have injured or killed many other innocent people.”
5. Castaneda Ranted About the Police on Facebook & Wrote That His Brother Was Murdered
Castaneda’s posts on Facebook were riddled with spelling errors. “I just read on Mr. Google that an auptopsy take’s 24 to 48 hours In the state of California. Unless Its a homicide case it take’s 3 buisnes so why havent the SAPD giving me any response on my brother’s Murder case… Lack of work…” he wrote in May 2019.
He spelled liars “liyer’s” in one post. In another post, he asked whether anyone could loan him $500. In another spelling error-filled message, he wrote, “I feel like everyone new I won on Money on PCH execpt me. I even ceel like my own family wanted to get rid of me to get this paper. Ic thats the cause am heart broking. I hate money cant stand It money was worth more than me or my brother. F*ck that sucks!”
In another post he wrote, “you f*cked up not killing me b*tch as*” and then listed a man’s name. “Yesterday I decided to go were my brother got shot & killed,” he wrote in another post. “As soon as I post up Bond with my Dead Brother i get pulled over by the Black & White from SAPD. He tells me I have to leave. Cause he doesnt wanna see a me get murdered, rigth well go with that. He also has thr nerve to tell me that i called out all Homies in the varrio were we are staying, thru facebook…. Here’$ were it get interesting I that social media text I posted on Facebook was addressed to SAPD. Cause of what they did infront of my family. So there you have…”
Although at least one recent unrelated attack (in El Paso) that killed multiple people is being investigated as a hate crime, authorities aren’t seeing that motive in the Castaneda situation.
“There was no indication this was a hate crime,” said Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney. “We just know this was a random act of violence and the guy unleashed evil across our two cities.”