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 by officers who found him with a pistol-grip shotgun, and he is believed to have acted alone, police said.
Police said the 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.
"Nothing makes an officer's heart beat faster than realizing he has a serial killer," said Bill McSweeney, chief of the homeland security office of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"That's what this man is," McSweeney said, referring to Hernandez.
Hernandez, who was held without bail, did not have an attorney on Tuesday and he was scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment on Wednesday, authorities said.
There was no immediate evidence of any links between Hernandez and the victims, and investigators had no motive for the slayings, Smith said.
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.
Authorities have not charged Hernandez in connection with the shootings on Sunday because they want to "methodically build the evidence necessary" to prosecute those charges, said Los Angeles deputy police chief Kirk Albanese.
(Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Cooney)