TORRANCE (CBSLA.com) — Authorities have identified the two women who were fatally shot by an elderly man at a senior living community in Torrance Tuesday afternoon.
Torrance police received several 911 calls around 12:10 p.m. Tuesday about a shooting that had occurred at the Golden West Towers in the 3500 block of Maricopa Street, Sgt. Robert Watt said.
“Officers arrived at the location and upon entering the building they observed three subjects deceased and lying in the lobby area on the ground floor,” he said.
All 14 floors of the building were evacuated after the shooting.
Following their investigation, police determined that a resident in his 80s fatally shot building manager Charlie Vanhager, 54, and Maria Leon, 53, before killing himself.
Witnesses said the man first shot Vanhager. Leon was standing nearby and tried to help her friend, prompting the shooter to fire at her. The man then got on his knees and fatally shot himself.
Leon worked as a caretaker at the facility. She was a single mother of two, who worked seven days a week to provide for her seven grandchildren. She also worked for the Torrance-Lomitas Meals On Wheels.
“I try to understand how an old man like that could have such anger to two beautiful women,” said Leon’s son Juan Vasquas. “She was a wonderful mother.”
Police said the shooter was a disgruntled resident with a long-standing grudge against Vanhager.
“She lived every day to the fullest. She made people feel good about themselves,” Vanhager’s daughter Nicole Daugherty said.
Vanhager’s family said she had a file on the shooter, with a paper trail of evidence showing years of verbal threats she had to endure.
“She was really concerned that he was going to do something to her. He told her one time that he was going to shoot her, that he had a gun. He pointed his finger at her, on one occasion, and made a gesture that he was going to shoot her,” said family friend Eric Spackman.
Both victims’ families said they reported the threats to the facility’s management but nothing was done.
“She asked for help trying to get him out of the building…wrote a lot of letters to the management…No one did anything,” Vasquas said of his mother.
Building management is reportedly cooperating with Torrance police in their investigation.
Anyone with additional information about this crime is encouraged to contact the Torrance Police Department Detective Division at (310) 618-5570.
Contributions to help Maria Leon’s family with funeral expenses can be made at www.MariaLeonMemorial.com.