A man accused of killing three people and injuring two others during a shooting spree last month at a business and home in Downey pleaded not guilty this week to murder and other charges.
Jade Douglas Harris, 30, is being held without bail pending his next appearance in Downey Superior Court on Dec. 18. At that court appearance, a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial for the Oct. 24 slayings of Josimar Rojas, Irene Cardenas Reyes and Susana Perez Ruelas.
Harris allegedly went to the family-owned business United States Fire Protection in the 8700 block of Cleta Street at about 8:45 a.m. Oct. 24 in response to an online advertisement for a car for sale.
An attorney and spokeswoman for the family said the suspect had offered to pay $25,000 in cash for the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, but when he showed up at the business, he pulled out a gun and demanded the car.
When he learned the car was a few blocks away at the family’s home, he allegedly opened fire, killing Rojas, 26, of Downey, and Reyes, 35, of Cudahy, according to police and prosecutors. Another woman was seriously wounded.
Prosecutors allege Harris then forced Ruelas, 34, to drive him and her 13-year-old son to the home where the car was located.
Family spokeswoman Martha Zerehi said that once they arrived there, the man put a gun to the boy’s head and threatened to kill him. Perez Ruelas tried to push the gun away, prompting the suspect to fatally shoot her, then shoot the boy, who played dead.
The suspect drove off in the black Camaro, which was later recovered in Los Angeles, police said. The teen was wounded but survived.
Police initially said the shooting targeted members of a single family, but two of the slain victims, Rojas and Cardenas, were not related to the other victims but merely worked at the family-owned business.
Harris was charged Oct. 29 with three counts each of murder, kidnapping for carjacking and carjacking, two counts each of attempted murder and kidnapping and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait, murder in the commission of a kidnapping, murder in the commission of a carjacking and killing a witness to a crime. The district attorney’s office will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Harris.
The criminal complaint alleges that he has prior felony convictions between 2003 and 2005 for robbery, attempted robbery and carrying a concealed weapon.