The first shots rang out in Bell half an hour before midnight. Two men in a red vehicle sped away, leaving behind a dead man outside an elementary school.

Over the next 90 minutes, authorities say, southeastern Los Angeles County was the scene of a series of terrifying and seemingly random murders.

When it was over, four people were killed in a series of drive-by shootings within five miles of each other, including a 14-year-old boy. The violence left victims’ families grieving and communities reeling.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County prosecutors charged two men with the murders.

“Multiple communities have been terrorized by the callous, cruel and ruthless actions of these men. This senseless violence will not go unanswered in the scales of justice”, Dist. Lawyer. George Gascón said in announcing the charges.

District Attorney George Gascón

Lawyer Dist. George Gascon on January 30 in Los Angeles.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Investigators said the suspects are affiliated with street gangs, but did not release any information about the motive behind the shooting. It was unclear whether one or both men opened fire in the shootings, and investigators said they have not recovered any weapons used in the killings.

Prosecutors charged Gary Garcia Jr., 42, and Timberland McKneely, 20, with four counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder under special circumstances.

Both are being held on $2 million bail. They were scheduled to appear in court Thursday and have not entered a plea, according to the district attorney’s office. Court records show Garcia has an extensive criminal history for driving with a suspended license, vandalism, theft and other crimes. McKneely has what Gascón called a “minimal record.”

Both men face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted, the district attorney’s office said.

Community leaders said they were relieved to learn of the charges, although much remains unknown about the motive for the shootings.

“Families throughout Southeast Los Angeles are grieving and communities are still reeling from the terror created by this senseless rampage,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Nothing we can do will restore the integrity of these families, but these men must be held accountable for the pain they caused and the lives they stole.”

People are at a candlelight vigil.

Friends and family say a prayer during a vigil for Kevin Parada Tuesday in Bell.

(Michael Blackshire / Los Angeles Times)

Huntington Park Police Chief Cosme Lozano issued a statement saying the killings sent “shock waves through our communities.”

On Tuesday night, friends and family gathered outside the Martha Escutia Elementary Center for a vigil to honor one of the victims, Kevin Parada, a 24-year-old father who died lying in a driveway outside the elementary school.

Lit by warm yellow votive candles and surrounded by white roses, daisies and sunflowers, those attending the vigil sang a series of prayers to God and the Virgin Mary.

“Give them eternal rest,” one man said in Spanish, to which the crowd responded “So be it.”

The murders unfolded in rapid succession.

The first shooting targeted Parada and a 29-year-old man around 11:30 p.m., homicide investigators said. The other man was unharmed. Thirty-four minutes later, in an unincorporated area of ​​the county, bullets felled a 27-year-old man in a parking lot in the 1500 block of East Florence Avenue. That man died; His name has not been released pending notification of his next of kin.

Four miles east, at the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center, 14-year-old Javier Pedraza Jr. and a 13-year-old boy standing outside the school were shot just 12 minutes after the earlier shooting. Pedraza died outside the elementary school, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. Neighbors said the boy attended school when he was in eighth grade. The 13-year-old boy was injured and taken to a hospital, authorities said.

The last victim was shot five minutes before 2 a.m. in the 6300 block of Santa Fe Avenue in Huntington Park. That person remains unidentified and is described only as between 35 and 45 years old.

Parada’s aunt, Michelle Ramos, wrote in a GoFundMe post that the family is “shocked and in disbelief” over her death.

“He had a family and his baby; it is a tragedy that his life was cut short,” she wrote.

Gascón said one of those killed was “experiencing homelessness,” but did not provide any additional information.

In each shooting, a red Honda Pilot was captured on surveillance video footage driving away from the scene. Investigators were able to verify the vehicle’s license plate and sent a bulletin to authorities indicating that the driver was armed and dangerous and wanted in connection with the shootings.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a vehicle matching the description at 4 p.m. Monday and a suspect was taken into custody. Investigators did not say which of the men was driving at the time. The second suspect was identified and arrested after a SWAT team issued and executed a search warrant at a Compton home Tuesday morning, according to investigators, who suspect a third person may also be linked to the shootings.

“Homicide detectives and multiple Department resources worked around the clock to identify and arrest the suspects who threatened the safety of our communities and were involved in these senseless murders,” Homicide Capt. Andy Meyer of the Department said in a statement. of the Los Angeles County Sheriff.

Times Staff writers Angie Orellana Hernández and Andrew Campa contributed to this story.

By Sam