SANTA ANA, Calif. – A 33-year-old documented gang member with an extensive criminal history is facing 11 felonies in connection with an hours-long stabbing spree that left four people dead and two others severely injured. Several businesses were also robbed during the August 7th attack.
Zachary Castaneda, 33, of Garden Grove was arrested by undercover Garden Grove police officers on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, after stabbing a total of four people to death and attacking two more in an assault that spanned two cities and more than 2 ½ hours. During the attack that targeted victims at random, Castaneda repeatedly stabbed a convenience store security guard and then used the knife to cut the security guard’s gun from his gun belt, leaving him to die.
Castaneda is currently being held at the Orange County Jail on $1.1 million bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned today at 2 p.m. at the Central Justice Center in C55. The charges filed today make him ineligible for bail.
Castaneda has been charged with four felony counts of murder, one felony count of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation, one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon to cause great bodily injury, one felony count of aggravated mayhem, one felony count of first degree residential burglary, and three felony counts of second degree robbery.
He is also charged with enhancements for multiple murders, murder during a robbery, three enhancements for committing additional crimes while out on bail on three separate criminal cases, having committed a prior serious and violent felony, having committed a prior serious felony, and committing a felony within five years of having spent more than a year in state prison.
Castaneda faces a minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if convicted on all charges. The enhancements of multiple murders and committing murder during a robbery make Castaneda eligible for the death penalty.
“As the elected District Attorney, I have the ultimate responsibility for preserving the integrity of our prosecution, holding criminals accountable for their actions within the confines of the law, and ensuring that the victims of these horrific acts of violence are being served by the criminal justice system,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “I am immediately convening the Orange County District Attorney’s Death Penalty Review Committee to determine whether to seek the death penalty in this case.”
Castaneda has an extensive criminal history and was currently out on bail on three separate felony Orange County cases, including a July 19, 2019 arrest which resulted in felony charges of carrying a dirk or dagger, misdemeanor drug possession and driving on a suspended license.
He posted a $50,000 bond on July 17, 2019 after being charged with eight felony counts of gang-related vandalism and two misdemeanor drug charges.
Castaneda was also out on bail on two felony charges of theft with a prior conviction of taking and receiving a stolen vehicle after having been convicted of a felony in connection with a February 27, 2019 arrest.
On August 7, 2019, a burglary was reported at 4:09 p.m. by a resident who lived at an apartment complex located in the city of Garden Grove. The victim said the suspect had taken several items, including a knife collection, and fled.
A robbery was then reported at 4:23 p.m. at a nearby bakery on Chapman Avenue. The victim reported a male Hispanic suspect was armed with a gun stole cash from the business.
At 5:04 p.m., a person called the police department to two adult male victims were being stabbed in front of an apartment at the same apartment complex where the burglary had been reported earlier that day. Officers arrived and found two male victims who had been stabbed numerous times. One male victim was deceased and the other victim was transported to a trauma center where he later succumbed to his injuries. The victims, who were roommates, lived in the apartment that had been burglarized. They were 62 and 63 years old.
At 5:39 p.m. a witness called the Garden Grove Police Department to report a robbery at the Cash & More business on Chapman Avenue. A suspect matching the earlier description from the bakery robbery threatened a customer inside the business and stole cash.
At 6:06 p.m. a silent panic alarm call was received from an insurance business on Harbor Boulevard after a live surveillance video feed captured a man walking into the business and repeatedly stabbing the 54-year-old woman who was working there before stealing cash. The suspect description matched the description of the earlier robberies. The stabbing victim was transported to a local trauma center and was treated for her injuries.
At 6:09 p.m. Garden Grove police received multiple calls about another stabbing at a gas station on Harbor Boulevard a ½ mile from the insurance business. A man pumping gas was stabbed several times by another man whho nearly severed his nose from his face. After the attack, the suspect resumed pumping gas and then fled in a silver Mercedes.
The 44-year-old victim was transported to a local trauma center and treated for his injuries.
At 6:16 p.m. Santa Ana police were called to a Subway restaurant on West First Street for an assault with a deadly weapon. A 39-year-old man was stabbed numerous times and later died from his injuries. The suspect matched the same description of the earlier stabbings and robberies and fled in a silver Mercedes.
At 6:25 p.m. undercover Garden Grove detectives located the silver Mercedes in the parking lot of a 7-11 store across the intersection from the Subway restaurant.
Detectives saw the suspect, later identified as Zachary Castaneda, walk out of the 7-11 armed with a large knife and a gun. Officers order Castaneda to drop his weapons. He complied and was arrested.
Witnesses running out of the store told police Castaneda had just stabbed an armed security guard and took his gun. Officers found the security guard with numerous stab wounds. He was taken to a local trauma center, where he died from his injuries.
Anyone with any additional information about these crimes is asked to call the Garden Grove Police Department at 714-741-5704. The District Attorney’s Office provides victim advocates to assist victims of crime navigate the criminal justice system and ensure their rights under Marsy’s Law are being protected.
Victims in this case can contact Victim Specialist Bianca Garcia at 714-347-8713 for assistance.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.