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 was formally charged on Tuesday with two other shootings, one of them fatal, police and prosecutors said.
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 suspect Hernandez in the deaths of two women and a man who were gunned down in quick succession on Sunday.
Hernandez was arrested that evening, and is believed to have acted alone, Smith said. Police said the same weapon used to shoot the dogs was also apparently used in Sunday's 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 critically wounding her parents. Her two siblings suffered minor injuries, police said.
Less than half an hour later, a 29-year-old man was fatally shot while walking outside a nearby recreation center, and another woman, 59, was shot and killed 10 minutes later while waiting for a friend before church.
Smith said there was no immediate evidence of any links between the man and the 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 said.
Smith said detectives were also looking into several other unsolved shootings in the region that bore similarities to Sunday's slayings for possible connections to Hernandez.
Hernandez was charged with murder on Tuesday in the death of a 48-year-old man killed in a drive-by shooting while heading to work in the San Fernando Valley last Thursday.
Prosecutors said Hernandez was also charged with attempted murder for allegedly opening fire on a husband and wife in their vehicle in West Hollywood last Friday. The couple were unhurt.
Hernandez was further charged with three counts of animal cruelty in the drive-by shooting on Saturday that killed the two dogs and injured a third, according to prosecutors. His arraignment was set for Wednesday, and he could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges.
(Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Peter Cooney)