LOS ANGELES — A father repeatedly stabbed his three young sons to death with a knife in the back seat of their car outside a South Los Angeles elementary school Wednesday before it's believed he turned the blade on himself, police said.
The father, said to be in his 30s, was found in his car bleeding from stab wounds to the chest, his dead sons in the back and a knife in the passenger seat. The boys, ages 8 to 12, were pronounced dead at the gruesome scene.
The father, whose name was not released, is the only suspect in the killings, police said. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition and will be arrested if he survives his wounds, Los Angeles Police Officer Matthew Ludwig said.
The motive was unclear and is being investigated. The father had no history of domestic violence charges or arrests, police said.
"These are horrific incidents," police Chief Charlie Beck said. "These are incidents that have scarred not only a community but the first responders that have to handle them."
"It is a sad day in LA," he said.
John Sorrentino, whose furniture store is next to the crime scene, said he was the one who first spotted the bloody scene and called 911.
"I saw this man behind the steering wheel covered in blood," he said. "I got a little bit closer, and I saw a young child in the back seat and his eyes were half open and he was covered in blood.
"He was staring out, just in space. It's still etched in my mind."
Sorrentino said he then saw another motionless boy bent over a seat, and in the back, a leg of the third boy lying upright. That's when he ran inside his store and called 911.
The three boys did not attend the elementary school next to the crime scene, Beck said, but they are enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Beck said the boys' mother is deceased and that their stepmother was safe and being interviewed by detectives.
It was unclear whether the boys lived with their father.
The deaths come as homicides are on the rise in Los Angeles. In August, 39 killings drove a year-to-date uptick in murders in the nation's second-largest city, according to police statistics. The 39 killings in August are compared with 22 the previous month and 19 last August.
Daniel Avalos, who works for Sorrentino and has five children between the ages of 3 and 12, said he saw paramedics pulling the man out of the car and one of the children still in the back.
"We're in South-Central, so stuff like that kind of happens around here. But the fact that it's children — that's heart-wrenching," Avalos said. "It's hard to think about."
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