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Motive Unknown in Clinic Rampage

Crime: Police identify the gunman in Monday's attack that killed three women in the City of Commerce.

April 17, 2002|JOSE CARDENAS and JESSICA GARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Police Tuesday tried to unravel the motive of a gunman, identified as "mentally unstable," who fatally shot three women at a City of Commerce clinic, including the doctor who owned it.

The gunman, who killed himself, was Eduardo Cruz, 51, of Pico Rivera, said Sheriff's Deputy Rick Varela.

A day after the shooting, investigators said they had determined that Cruz was mentally disturbed--a witness Monday described Cruz as "acting weird"--but they were still talking to his friends and relatives to decipher the motive.

Co-workers said he sometimes had conflicts with a doctor at the clinic, but, "It is unknown at this time what precipitated the shooting," said Deputy Sonia Parra.

Colleagues of Cruz, an X-ray technician at the Superior Medical Clinic where the shooting occurred, described him both as a quiet man--small in stature--and as one whose temper could sometimes flare.

"Eddie is a mild-mannered person," said Debbie Graves, former manager of the Commerce clinic.

Medical assistant Jennie Avila said, "People said he was aggressive at times, but I never saw that side of him."

The victims were identified as Dr. Lucia Caridad Lorenzo, 43, of Bel-Air; registered nurse Patricia Oglesby, 49, of Pico Rivera; and Roxanne Ruiz, 25, of East Los Angeles.

The shooting happened early Monday afternoon after Cruz arrived at the clinic on East Olympic Boulevard dressed in street clothes rather than his usual medical uniform.

When the shooting began, patients fled into the street. Oglesby and Ruiz were declared dead at the scene; Lorenzo died about two hours after the attack.

Trying to Make Sense of the Three Deaths

On Tuesday, colleagues struggled to understand the deaths of the dedicated doctor and the other two women--one of whom had rented a room to Cruz at her Pico Rivera house.

Oglesby's son, Mario Restrepo, 30, said his mother had needed the extra income and that Cruz had sold his condominium when she rented space to him for about six months last year.

"They got along great at work, and my mom needed the help," Restrepo said. He didn't know why Cruz moved out some months ago.

"But I know he always carried a gun," Restrepo said.

Rachel DuBria, a physician assistant who worked for Lorenzo, said, "God, I'm going to miss them. The sad part is that we'll really never know what happened."

.

Attempts to reach relatives of victim Roxanne Ruiz were not successful.

Graves said Lorenzo, whose family lives in Miami, was originally from Cuba and met her husband, Reza Ehsan, at medical school in Illinois. The couple, who had two small daughters, were in the process of building a house in Bel-Air.

The wife-and-husband team operated four medical facilities specializing in pediatrics and prenatal care, in Mar Vista, North Hills and East Los Angeles in addition to the Commerce medical center, which served primarily low-income patients.

Colleagues described Lorenzo as a caring doctor who at times was more interested in healing than profits.

"They were very young physicians--really liked to help the poor people," Graves said. "If you didn't have any money, we would just see you for free."

Dolores Montgomery, 73, a patient who lived across the street from Lorenzo's Mar Vista clinic, said the doctor used to visit her at home because her osteoporosis kept her confined to bed.

"She never said, 'How are you going to pay for this?'" Montgomery said. "She was just beautiful."

But Graves, the one who described Cruz as mild-mannered, also said Lorenzo's professional relationship with Cruz was occasionally rocky.

The two would argue periodically and Cruz would tell Graves, "I can't stand her anymore. I want to get out of here."

Cruz confided in Graves because she now works at the Women's Corner Medical Center in Montebello, where Cruz would work when he was fighting with Lorenzo.

"He worked with us with no problem," Graves said. "He did excellent work."

But he always returned to work at the Commerce facility.

"Dr. Lorenzo would go and rehire him again," said Graves. "He would leave me in midair and go back to work with Dr. Lorenzo."

Colleagues and friends of the victims also struggled to understand why Cruz allegedly shot Oglesby.

A Source of Support for Young Neighbor

Oglesby, who also had another adult child and a teenage son and daughter, until last week worked the weekend morning shift at a McDonald's in Pico Rivera to supplement her income from the clinic, said Terry Castaneda, a next-door neighbor.

She raised her four children on her own after her husband left for Mexico six years ago, Restrepo said.

Another neighbor, Louise Solis, 18, counted on Oglesby for support. Frequently, Solis would call Oglesby in the morning and talk about her personal goals for that month.

Oglesby, always willing to take Solis under her arm, once took the teenager to Magic Mountain along with her daughter.

"We called each other everyday," said Solis. "She just listened and supported me."

Restrepo said he will care for his teenage siblings, 18-year-old Roy and 15-year-old Angelica.

Cruz's friends said they were shocked when they saw reports of the rampage on the news.

"It was really unexpected," said Maria Banuelos, 17, his goddaughter. "He was a people person. It wasn't something someone could have predicted."

Banuelos said that Cruz was married to her aunt, but that they had divorced about a decade ago. Still, he stayed in touch with her family, visiting their home in Pasadena often.

His parents live in Colombia, she said.

"We're sad," she said. "With all the family, he was very nice."

*

Times staff writers Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Manuel Gamiz Jr. contributed to this report.

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