David Mora Rojas, a 39-year-old father who fatally shot his three young daughters and their chaperone before killing himself during a supervised visit inside the sanctuary of The Church in Sacramento in California just over a week ago, used an unregistered “ghost gun” to commit his crimes, authorities said.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that Rojas, who was not supposed to have guns due to a temporary restraining order against him, committed the murder-suicide on Feb. 28 with a homemade semiautomatic rifle-style weapon.
“At the conclusion of the shooting, Mora-Rojas had in his possession, an AR style rifle,” Sheriff’s Spokesman Sgt. Rod Grassmann said in a written statement. “The firearm had no serial number or manufacturer markings and is what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives refers to as a ‘Privately Made Firearm (PMF).’ The rifle had an extended 30 round magazine inserted and 17 casings were found at the scene.”
Grassmann told The Associated Press that it’s unclear where Rojas, a Mexican national living in the U.S. illegally, obtained the gun used to kill his daughters Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9; Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10; and Samia Mora Gutierrez, 13. The late chaperone was identified as Nathaniel Kong, 59. Business records show that he was an executive of the church.
In a statement shared on its website, The Church in Sacramento said Kong had been shepherding Rojas and his family for almost five years since they joined the church.
“Nathaniel loved to give, lived to give and ultimately died to give,” the statement reads. “He was committed to being a lifeline to individuals in desperate need as the highest form of service to his beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When anyone asked for help — whether strangers or members of the small congregation in which he and his family actively served — he gave it, no questions asked.”
Kong is remembered as a person who saw “the good” in people, “regardless of their past or present struggles.”
“Because of his servant’s heart, Nathaniel was respected and admired as an elder in the Church in Sacramento where he volunteered full-time,” the church’s statement continued. “As a long-time member, Nathaniel earned this informal title so that younger members could go to him for help, assistance and fellowship because of who he was and the life he lived.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Alethea Smock told AP that Rojas overstayed his visa after entering California from Mexico on Dec. 17, 2018.
Despite his criminal history after entering the country, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said ICE was never notified because of California’s sanctuary state law, which prevents local law enforcement from cooperating with federal officials except when immigrants are accused of serious crimes.
Court documents cited by AP show that Rojas was out on bail at the time of the killings after an arrest just days earlier for multiple charges, including assaulting a police officer. He was arrested on Feb. 23, but he posted bail and was released after spending one night in jail.
The mother of his late daughters also described him as “a jealous person” who made her so afraid that she sought and obtained a temporary restraining order against him in April 2021. The restraining order also prohibited Rojas from possessing a firearm or ammunition.
“This unspeakable tragedy highlights the true cost, unintended or not, of sanctuary policies that prevent law enforcement from protecting its citizens,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in a statement.
Grisel Ruiz, the supervising attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, told AP that she believes the issue isn’t about immigration but gun control and domestic violence.
A GoFundMe campaign started by an aunt of the late sisters has raised more than $75,000 from thousands of donors to help with funeral expenses as of Tuesday morning.
Many of the donors also left comforting words of support for the mother, whose identity is protected because she is the victim of a crime.
“I wanted to tell the mother I’m so sorry for your loss. You did what you were supposed to do to protect your babies. Nothing you could have done would have prevented this. Don’t ever feel any sense of blame,” wrote one donor, Alexis Mayhew. “I know what you went through, I’ve been there. But right now I can’t imagine your pain, can only tell you I’m sorry and I’m here for you at heart. May your babies R.I.P. love always.”