The South Pasadena community this week has rallied its support around the family of a local man who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles this week while working as an Uber driver.
MingZhi Zhu, 42, was killed in his vehicle while waiting at a red light at Figueroa and 7th Street in L.A. at around 1:45 a.m. Tuesday. The gunman, who had earlier killed another motorist and fired rounds at other vehicles, was later killed in a stand-off with police who had barricaded him on the 91 Freeway, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“He was a hard-working, gentle, kind, deeply-loving father and very dedicated husband,” said Yuki Cutcheon, president of the South Pasadena Chinese American Club, in a statement to media on behalf of Zhu’s family Tuesday. “The family is really at a total loss without him.”
In South Pasadena, Zhu’s family contacted the South Pasadena Police Department Tuesday morning after Zhu, an Uber driver, did not return home. Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky said the department quickly determined that Zhu was among the rampage gunman’s victims.
The department quickly pivoted to provide support. Solinsky said he contacted the Chinese American Club to assist with Mandarin translation, while the South Pasadena Police Officers Association sprang into action to provide food and other resources for the family.
“Even though this was a Los Angeles Police Department case, we looked at it as, ‘This is a resident and we need to work to make sure she has the best resources possible,’” Solinsky said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We just wanted to make sure we were taking care of our residents and giving them the best assistance.
“I know the association went out, bought lunch for the family and [took care of] the immediate financial needs of the family,” the interim chief added.
“The police department yesterday was fantastic for her,” Cutcheon added.
The suspect, identified Wednesday as Carlos Lopez, a 50-year-old L.A. man, reportedly shot three men in the Tuesday morning rampage, according to Lt. Raul Jovel of the LAPD. In addition to Zhu, Lopez is said to have also killed a 24-year-old newlywed man who was waiting with his wife in a drive-thru line at Starbucks at Figueroa and 28th Street.
“These appear to be random acts of violence … we have no idea what precipitated this,” Jovel said at a news conference near where the pursuit ended. “We’ll be going back to the suspect’s home, talking to family members, trying to figure out what led to these acts of violence.”
The sequence of events began about 1 a.m., when a man was shot and wounded in the downtown Los Angeles area, Jovel said. The wounded man, who is expected to survive, gave authorities a description of the suspect’s vehicle.
About 25 minutes later, the 24-year-old man at Starbucks was shot, and 15-20 minutes later, Zhu was shot while in his Cadillac Escalade at Figueroa and 7th Street, on his way to pick up a ride. Patrolling officers saw the suspect vehicle and began chasing it about 1:45 a.m., Jovel said.
The pursuit, often at slow speeds, traveled along the Pomona (60) and Orange (57) freeways before coming to an end about 4 a.m. on the westbound Riverside Freeway at the Raymond Avenue overcrossing, where officers deployed spike strips, damaging the SUV’s tires and forcing it to stop.
Two law enforcement vehicles boxed in the suspect’s SUV, and a standoff ensued, Jovel said. Although SWAT officers attempted to negotiate a surrender, Lopez eventually fired at the officers, who returned fire and killed him at the scene.
It remained unclear Wednesday what motivated the shootings, according to police.
Cutcheon, who spoke to media in representation of Zhu’s family on Tuesday, said Zhu leaves behind his wife and their children, an 8-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl. They moved to California from China in 2016 and have lived in South Pasadena for two years. Zhu was the family’s sole provider, and his character was heralded in a GoFundMe page — Zhu once tracked down an elderly passenger who accidentally left $400 in the backseat of his vehicle during a trip, the page says.
As of the Review’s press deadline on Wednesday, more than 1,700 donors had raised more than $115,000 in 21 hours for the family, to help with funeral and other expenses. The page can be found at bit.ly/3vrLrbH.
“Anything will help this family,” Cutcheon said.
“Ultimately, this is what South Pasadena is all about,” Solinsky added. “This is a small community, but we have the resources internally. It’s such a strong community and it was great to see everyone come together in such a tragic event.”
City News Service contributed to this report.