Due to the characteristics of the fatal shooting at dawn this Monday that left six victims, including a 6-month-old baby, his teenage mother and an elderly woman, Tulare County authorities do not rule out the possibility that a drug cartel.
The shooting occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Harvest Road, east of Highway 99, in the town of Goshen, near Visalia, in Tulare County, central California.
The Tulare County Sheriff's Department considered that the shooting was more of an execution, directed against the victims, because some had been shot in the head.
Authorities are looking for two suspects in the slayings, which may be related to a search warrant issued at the home last week that resulted in an arrest and the seizure of marijuana, methamphetamine and firearms.
“I think he is specifically connected to the cartel. The level of violence was not that of a run-of-the-mill, low-level gang member,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told the Los Angeles Times, without mentioning any particular drug cartel.
So far, authorities have not released the names or ages of the six victims, but mentioned that some of them appeared to be relatives.
The Sheriff revealed that several of the victims were shot in the head, including the baby, who was found in the arms of his mother, a 17-year-old girl, whose bodies were found in a ditch outside the home. Apparently, the teenager was trying to escape along with her son at the time they were shot.
A third victim, an elderly woman found in a nursing home bed, was also shot in the head, possibly while she was sleeping .
Three men also died in the massacre. One of them was still alive when sheriffs arrived, performed CPR, and transported him to a hospital, where he later died of his injuries.
Authorities said they would be investigating whether one of the victims was a man who was arrested last week by a gang and narcotics unit of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. They announced that DNA tests would be necessary to identify one of the men due to the injuries caused to his face by firearms.
Two women reportedly survived the attack by hiding in a trailer on the property. Apparently, people noticed the presence of intruders thanks to surveillance cameras.
The intruders kicked or pushed the door of the house and one of the men fired shots, apparently at the teenage mother and her son as they tried to escape.
According to Sheriff Boudreaux, due to the manner and speed in which the attacks were committed, they suggest that they were experienced criminals.
“If they specifically shoot everyone in the head, they know very well what they're doing…they're comfortable with what they're doing,” the Sheriff said.
The massacre shocked the sleepy town of Goshen, a largely Latino community of about 5,000 residents.
One man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, mentioned that he was woken by the gunshots, only to hear intermittent gunshots moments later and then the sound of a car speeding away.
“These senseless acts of violence, especially against infants, children and young adults, have no place in our communities,” Tulare County Supervisor Eddie Valero said.
Tulare County has long played an important role in the transnational business of transporting drugs from Mexico to markets in the United States.
With a sparse police presence, Highway 99 traverses acres of expansive land and a population of farm workers, an area that has been something of a bootlegger's paradise since at least the 1970s.
In more recent decades, methamphetamine and the cultivation of marijuana, both legal and illegal, have been produced in the region.
Anyone with information that may assist in the investigation of these homicides may contact the Tulare County Sheriff's Office at 559-733-618.