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Monday, August 21, 2023

Ali Syed's Killing Spree

     Ali Syed, an unemployed part time student at Saddleback Community College, lived with his parents in Ladera Ranch, an affluent suburban Orange County community 50 miles south of Los Angeles. The pudgy 20-year-old spent most of his time in his parents' white stucco condo playing video games. He had never been arrested and had no known history of illicit drug use. Ali did possess a .12-gauge shotgun his father had given to him in 2012.

     At 4:45 in the morning of Tuesday, February 19, 2013, Syed's mother called 911 from the Ladera Ranch condo. "I think somebody was shot," she said. "I heard a gunshot." Deputies with the Orange County Sheriff's Office found, in Syed's room, 20-year-old Courtney Aoki. (There were reports she worked as a stripper.) Aoki had been killed instantly by three shotgun blasts to the head and upper body. Syed had fled the murder scene in his parents' black GMC Yukon before the deputies arrived at the dwelling.

     From Ladera Ranch, Ali Syed headed north on Interstate 5 where, 20 miles from his home, he exited the interstate and drove into the town of Tustin. Driving with a flat tire, he pulled into a Denny's parking lot alongside a man sitting in an older model blue Cadillac. Syed pointed his shotgun at the man and yelled, "Get out!" Instead of complying with the order, the driver of the Cadillac drove off. He didn't get far. Syed raised the shotgun and blew out the fleeing driver's rear window, wounding him in the back of the head. The victim, who managed to escape on foot to a nearby hospital, survived the shooting.

     Syed approached a man pumping gas at a Mobile station. "I don't want to hurt you," he said. "I just killed someone. Give me your keys. This is my last day." Syed climbed in behind the wheel of this man's Dodge pickup truck and headed north. On Interstate 5 he drove five miles before merging onto a southbound lane which took him to Freeway 55. He pulled the stolen truck to the shoulder of the highway, stepped out of the vehicle and began shooting at motorists commuting to work, wounding three of them.

     After firing randomly at passing vehicles Mr. Syed climbed into the Dodge pickup, pulled back onto the highway and proceeded to the Edinger Avenue exit from where he drove into Santa Ana. Shortly after pulling into town he approached a man sitting in a BMW. Syed ordered 69-year-old Melvin Edwards of Laguna Hills out of his vehicle. As the victim stood at the side of the street Syed executed him with three shotgun blasts.

     Driving Melvin Edwards' BMW, Ali Syed returned to Tustin. In the parking lot of a computer store he murdered Jeremy Lewis. Lewis, a plumber from Fullerton, was walking to a construction site at a nearby Fairfield Inn. A construction supervisor saw the shotgun-armed Syed chasing Lewis across the parking lot. The supervisor drove his pickup truck onto the lot in an effort to rescue Lewis, but Syed shot him in the arm and stole his vehicle. It was 5:45 in the morning.

     Just before six o'clock, at an intersection about 25 miles north of Ladera Ranch, officers with the California Highway Patrol caught up with Syed. The video game playing college student, after killing three people and wounding three others in the course of his 75-minute suburban shooting spree, jumped out of the stolen pickup truck while it was still moving. Syed pressed the muzzle of his shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. He became his seventh victim.

     For reasons that remained a mystery absent a suicide note or some kind of manifesto, Ali Syed shot six innocent strangers. There was no way to know if he had been inspired by other recent high-profile mass murder-suicide cases or if suicide had been his ultimate goal. Why did he murder the young woman in his room and the two men he encountered as they went about their daily routines? These are questions that will never be answered.

     In the wake of homicidal crime sprees, people ask if there were any indications that this person was capable of such mayhem. These events are almost always impossible to predict because it's impossible to know what is going on inside the mind of a mentally disturbed person. 


  1. This seems so obvious (and incredibly horrific simultaneously). This is the plot to Grand Theft Auto. The boyfriend of the first murder victim admitted that she worked as an escort, which is likely what brought her to his home that night. Part of the game. Part of the game is also to repeatedly hijack cars.

    1. This was such a troubling story and even these years later personally troubles me, although I did not know any of the victims. If there was some sort of connection to violent games like Grand Theft Auto, it is important to point it out...This was a tragic story that just seem to get worse and worse here in America