Two gunmen invaded a home in Tulare County in Central California early Monday, where they killed six people, including a 17-year-old mother and her 6-month-old baby, in what the authorities said was presumed to be a gang-related attack.
Officers arrived at the home in Goshen about 4 a.m. local time, after someone called the police about a large number of gunshots, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux of Tulare County said at a news conference on Monday.
Details about the crime were sketchy, but in a later interview Sheriff Boudreaux told The Los Angeles Times that a deputy responding to the call found the infant cradled in the arms of her 17-year-old mother in a ditch outside the home. Both had been shot in the head.
Another victim was in the doorway, and three more were inside, including an older woman, the sheriff said. All were dead at the scene except for a man who died after being taken to a hospital. Two women survived the attack by hiding in a nearby trailer, the sheriff said.
“We do not believe that this was a random act of violence,” Sheriff Boudreaux told reporters at the news conference. “We believe that this was very targeted. This was very personal, and we also believe that it was a message being sent.”
There are at least two male suspects in the shooting, Sheriff Boudreaux said, adding that there were “gang associations involved in this scene.”
Sheriff Boudreaux said that his office executed a search warrant at the property last week, seizing guns, marijuana and methamphetamine. He told The Los Angeles Times that he believed the attack was connected to a drug cartel.
“This was not your run-of-the-mill, low-end gang member,” Sheriff Boudreaux told the newspaper, adding that the “manner and swiftness” of the killings suggested the men were experienced in murder. Many of the victims had been shot in the head, including the older woman, who was found in a bed inside the home, he said.
Two other women survived by hiding in a trailer home, he said, and they told the authorities that people in the home had seen the intruders sneaking onto the property on surveillance cameras. “It was too late to do anything,” he said.
Eddie Valero, a Tulare County supervisor, said in a statement on Monday night that the attack “in Goshen is everyone’s worst nightmare.”
“These senseless acts of violence, especially with infants, children and young adults, have no place in our communities,” Mr. Valero said.
Tulare County officials have made a number of arrests in recent years related to drug trafficking. A traffic stop in 2020 led the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office to find 50 pounds of methamphetamine inside a car.
That traffic stop later led detectives to find two working methamphetamine labs inside a home, and another working meth lab inside another home. In total, the investigation led to more than $1.5 million in recovered drugs, according to the sheriff’s office.
In a multistate drug seizure last year, the county’s drug trafficking task force and the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested four people who were said to be involved in a scheme to send methamphetamine to be sold in Las Vegas.
“Like many communities across the state, this drug issue has become a big concern for many,” Mr. Valero said. “The county, along with its law enforcement, has taken active measures to reduce crime and illegal activity. Despite these efforts, issues like the one in Goshen will transpire. We will continue to take active measures in seeing greater safety and security in our county.”