José Valdivia is accused of killing his estranged wife and three of their children at her home in San Diego, California, just hours after she obtained a restraining order against him, authorities say. The 31-year-old Valdivia shot and killed 29-year-old Sabrina Rosario and three of their sons before fatally shooting himself, according to police. A fourth son was also shot during the murder-suicide and is in critical condition.
According to police, Rosario had sought and obtained a restraining order against Valdivia on Friday, November 15, 2019. The shooting occurred on the morning of Saturday, November 16, at the Paradise Hills neighborhood home where Rosario grew up. Valdivia and Rosario have been separated and going through a divorce for several months.
Rosario’s family members told reporters Valdivia had not wanted the divorce and would not accept that it was happening, NBC San Diego reports. He stalked and threatened his estranged wife, who had accused him of abuse while they were still together, according to her family and neighbors.
Zeth Valdivia, 11, Zuriel Valdivia, 5, and Enzie Valdivia, 3, were killed in the tragic murder-suicide along with their parents, family members told NBC San Diego. Ezekiel Valdivia, 9, underwent surgery on Saturday and was in critical condition at a San Diego hospital on Sunday, according to his family.
Here’s what you need to know about José Valdivia:
1. Police Say They Received a 911 Call About a Man & Woman Arguing & the ‘Pop-Pop-Pop’ Sound of Gunshots
San Diego Police responded to the 2100 block of Flintridge Drive in the Paradise Hills neighborhood about 6:50 a.m. after a 911 call, authorities said at a press conference. The dispatcher did not speak to anyone on the call, but could hear people arguing in the background, according to police.
A second 911 call was made shortly after from a relative of the Valdivia family who lives in a neighboring home, police said. The family member said he or she heard a man and woman arguing at Sabrina Rosales’ house and the “pop-pop-pop” of what the caller thought was a nail gun, but turned out to be gunshots.
Police arrived at the scene and knocked on the door to Rosales’ home, but no one answered, authorities said at a press conference. Officers walked to the back of the home and discovered the gruesome scene inside, spotting a child on the floor with apparent gunshot wounds. The officers entered the house and discovered the grisly aftermath of the shooting, with Rosales, Jose Valdivia and their four sons all suffering from gunshot wounds.
“They could see a child down and covered in blood,” Police Lieutenant Matt Dobbs said at a press conference. The officers then broke into the house. They carried the bloodied body of the wounded son to an ambulance, Dobbs said.
Dobbs told reporters at a press conference that the father is the only suspect, but the investigation is ongoing. “It’s still very early in the investigation, but it appears to be a tragic case of domestic violence murder-suicide,” Dobbs told reporters.
“We believe the male came over this morning, there was some kind of argument or disagreement and he used a hand gun and shot his family before turning the gun upon himself,” Dobbs said.
2. Police Say They Are Not Sure If Validvia Was Served With the Restraining Order Sought by His Estranged Wife, but He Was Aware of It
Officers responded to the same Flintridge Drive home in on November 1, 2019, for a disturbance over property, according to police. The officers found a man and woman, Valdivia and Rosario, arguing over items. According to police, Valdivia had come to the home to get tools that he said belonged to him. Police said the officers told Rosario how she could get a restraining order.
Authorities said they are still investigating the couple’s history. Officers were called to the home for that November 1 incident to “preserve the peace,” and no arrests were made, according to police.
Police said Rosario did file for a restraining order and it was granted on November 15, the day before the shooting. Authorities said it was not immediately clear if the restraining order had been served to Valdivia. But they said he was aware of it.
It is not clear when or how Valdivia obtained the handgun used in the shooting. It is also not known if he had a criminal record.
3. Rosario Told Neighbors She Was Being Abused & Her Sister Says Valdivia Sent His Estranged Wife Photos of Alcohol & a Gun
Neighbors told the San Diego Union-Tribune they sometimes heard arguing coming from inside the home where the shooting occurred. Sabrina Rosario had told a neighbor a few months ago she was being abused by her husband “but she felt like she had nowhere else to go,” the Union-Tribune reports.
Rosario lived close to several family members and neighbors said everyone in the neighborhood knows each other. The kids would often be outside playing.
“Why would someone take these kids’ life? It’s senseless; they’re pure and innocent,” neighbor Sonya Gordon said to NBC San Diego.
“It’s like ‘The Sandlot,’” neighbor Jhoana Cruz told the Union-Tribune. “Everybody knows everybody.” She said she wasn’t sure if she was going to tell her sons about the shooting, but she said she had to. “Lots of horrible things happen in the world, and it’s better to hear it from me, I guess,” Cruz said.
Another neighbor, Gabriel Durazo, told the newspaper he would see the boys playing with their dog and riding their bikes. “They were just living the kid’s life on the outside, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors,” Durazo told the newspaper.
4. Valdivia & Rosario Had Been Together Since High School & Rosario Filed for Divorce in January 2019
Rosario’s sister, Joceliin Rosario, told NBC San Diego that Jose Valdivia had not been able to accept that his wife, Sabrina Rosario, wanted a divorce. Rosario said Valdivia began stalking her sister and told her he was having suicidal thoughts, the news station reports.
Valdivia once sent his estranged wife photos of alcohol and a gun, according to her sister.
Joceliin Rosario said the divorce was not finalized. San Diego County court records show Sabrina Rosario filed for divorce in January 2019. Her sister said Sabrina and Jose were high school sweethearts. They attended Mira Mesa High School in San Diego.
Photos on Valdivia’s Facebook page show him with his four sons, including on a trip to Disneyland, along with older photos with Rosario. Sabrina Rosario’s Facebook page is also filled with pictures of their children and family.
Valdivia wrote on Facebook about no longer being with his wife. When a friend wrote that his son looked like his wife, he replied, “Ex wife.” On another photo of Valdivia with his sons, he wrote in Spanish during a conversation, “I’m divorced already,” when a friend brought up his wife.
5. San Diego’s Police Chief Called It a ‘Senseless Tragedy’ & Said ‘These Are the Toughest Calls We Can Respond To’
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit told The New York Times, “As a husband and a father, this incident is very difficult to even think about.”
Councilwoman Monica Montgomery, who represents the neighborhood where the shootings occurred, said in a statement it is an “unfathomable tragedy,” and added, “As this story makes national headlines, we all grapple with the horror of the loss of these precious lives.”
Nisleit told reporters the scene was tough for the officers who responded, saying, “These are the toughest calls we can respond to.” He called it a “senseless tragedy.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said on Twitter, “The tragedy today in Paradise Hills is terribly sad. All of San Diego mourns for the family and the surrounding neighborhood. This senseless act of violence goes against everything our community stands for and we will get through this together.”
Karl Albright, Rosario’s brother, started a GoFundMe after the shooting.
“This morning at or about 6:45am my sister and her four boys were shot by their father who killed himself after taking their lives. One survived and is in the hospital on full life support,” Albright wrote. “The family will be placing Sabrina 29, Zeth 11, Zuriel 5, Enzi 3 to rest. Ezequiel 9 is fighting for his life in intensive care on full life support. As sad as this moment is, the cost of burials and medical bills will be much more than the requested goal is. Anything is a welcome blessing to help us through this tragic moment in our lives.”