Three Ontario high school students were arrested Friday in the fatal shooting of an 89-year-old man in a city park, authorities said, a day after his killers were seen exchanging celebratory high-fives as they fled a botched robbery.
Fidencio Guzman of Ontario, a widowed grandfather who lived with his daughter, was shot several times near a bathroom at John Galvin Park about 4 p.m. Thursday, police said. Guzman died minutes later at San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland.
Witnesses told police that three young males in ski masks sprinted away from the shooting, then celebrated after they escaped to a side street.
On Friday morning, students at Chaffey High School told a campus police officer that three fellow students might have been responsible. A swarm of Ontario police arrested three juveniles during class, but police officials did not reveal why students suspected the three.
The arrested teens told officers that they had planned to only rob Guzman, and then they pointed fingers at each other when asked who fired the gun, said police spokesman Craig Ansman and Det. Al Parra.
"They claimed they didn't know [Guzman] had been hit," Parra said. "This crime just doesn't make sense. It's irrational, twisted and a dark-side thing to do."
The identities of the suspects were withheld because they are juveniles. Two are 17; the third is 16. All were booked on suspicion of murder into West Valley Detention Center's juvenile facility in Rancho Cucamonga.
The daylight shooting of Guzman, described by police as a "harmless, elderly man just taking a walk," stunned residents as well as classmates and the principal at Chaffey High.
"We send the message to our students to take ownership of our community by doing good things," Principal Dennis O'Connell said. "It disturbs me greatly that someone at my school would make a choice to destroy a life."
Neighborhood resident Beatriz Gamboa said she saw three youths run by her J Street home moments after the shooting. "You don't see people running that fast across the park like they were," Gamboa said in Spanish, interpreted by her cousin. "There were two guys running real fast, and a third guy dressed in white running slower, looking back toward the park."
Galvin Park is in an established north Ontario neighborhood south of the San Bernardino Freeway. Police said the park has become a haven for drug deals and gang fights. Several assaults have been reported at the park this year, police said.