A Los Angeles city attorney shot and killed his wife and teenage son at their home in California, before turning the gun on himself in a tragic double murder-suicide that nearly claimed the life of his daughter, too.
Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department found three people dead of gunshots wounds in a Northridge home around 9 a.m. on Wednesday after responding to reports of an assault with a deadly weapon with shots fired, the LAPD said in a news release.
One lone survivor, later identified in media reports as the gunman’s daughter, was found across the street at a neighbor’s home.
Police said Eric Lertzman, 60, shot and killed wife Sandra, also 60, in the couple’s master bedroom, then walked across the hall and fired at the adult woman later identified as his daughter.
She locked herself in a hallway bathroom and managed to escape out the window when she then ran to a neighbor’s house.
Lertzman then shot and killed his son Michael, 19, before returning to the master bedroom and shooting himself.
Police said a motive remains under investigation, but investigators believe “the recent loss of a loved one and ongoing health issues played a significant role.”
Neighbors also told NBC Los Angeles that Lertzman had recently undergone colon surgery, and was forced to take leave from his job.
“This is a tragedy. This is a case of somebody snapping,” his sister-in-law, Cindy Stern, told the New York Daily News. “He was in pain and on pain medication. It’s so out of character from him. He was a mild-mannered man.”
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Stern also remembered her sister Sandy as “just a very positive, caring, thoughtful person. She was just so loving and full of life.”
After Lertzman’s daughter made her escape that evening, she made her way to her neighbor Greg Demos’ house. Demos told KTLA she recounted the shooting and said her father was the gunman.
“[She said] ‘I don’t know what to tell you, Greg, but this is what just happened in my house, and I don’t know what to do.’ She said, ‘My dad took a shot at me, and my mom and brother are still inside,’” he recalled. “[She was] in her pajamas, her sleeping attire, upset, confused, distraught, somewhat in shock, seemed like a little bit embarrassed.”
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office confirmed Lertzman’s involvement in the shooting and said he’d worked for the department since 2005.
“This is a horrible tragedy. As we search for answers to how this could happen, we mourn the victims and envelop those left behind with our love during this time of unbearable loss. Of course, we will provide members of our City Attorney Family with needed counseling and support,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement.
If you suspect domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.