LOS ANGELES - A longtime assistant Los Angeles city attorney killed himself last week after gunning down his wife and 19-year-old son, police officials said.
Authorities were alerted to the killings when Eric Lertzman’s daughter, 25, fled to a neighbor’s house after escaping through a bathroom window, according to an LAPD news release. The dead include Lertzman, 60; his wife, Sandra Lertzman, also 60; and their 19-year-old son Michael Lertzman.
The daughter’s identity was not revealed by police, but Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer identified her as Rachel Lertzman.
Sandy Lertzman's sister, Cindy Stern, wrote on Facebook of the shock of the tragedy.
“You never think this is going to happen to your immediate family,” Stern wrote. “Still in shock, but completely heartbroken about losing my dear sister Sandy, nephew Michael and brother-in-law Eric to gun violence today. Grateful beyond words that Rachel survived.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help Rachel Lertzman in the wake of her family’s deaths had raised more than $122,000 as of Monday morning.
According to police, dispatchers received a call around 9 a.m. Wednesday for shots fired and an assault with a deadly weapon at the Lertzman home in Northridge. Greg Demos, the neighbor from whom Rachel Lertzman sought help, told KTLA she ran over in her pajamas and said her father had tried to shoot her.
She was “upset, confused distraught, somewhat in shock,” as she recounted what happened, Demos told the news station.
“‘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,’” Demos recalled her telling him. “She said, ‘My dad took a shot at me, and my mom and my brother are still inside.’”
Demos told ABC7 in Los Angeles that he and Rachel Lertzman ran back to the family’s home.
“I went with her to the door and I knocked on the door, yelled. Nothing,” Demos told the news station. “We went to the back. She had locked the doors and left. She said my mom and my brother are still inside. We pummeled on the door, yelled for her dad, yelled her mother’s name and brother’s name. No answer.
“And that's when we called the police.”
Police officials said the investigation showed Eric Lertzman shot and killed his wife in their bedroom, then attempted to shoot his daughter in her bedroom across the hall. She locked herself in a bathroom for safety.
Lertzman then went to his son, Michael, and killed him, authorities said.
Watch ABC7's live coverage of the police response to the Lertzman home below.
“During this time, (Rachel Lertzman) escaped through the bathroom window and ran to a neighbor’s residence,” the news release said. “Eric returned to the master bedroom, where he turned the weapon on himself, ending his own life.”
According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office, Eric Lertzman died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Both Michael and Sandra Lertzman died of multiple gunshot wounds. Their deaths were classified as homicides, while Eric Lertzman's death was labeled a suicide.
Two handguns were found in the home, according to police.
Feuer said on Twitter that Eric Lertzman had been with the city attorney’s office since 2005.
"As we search for answers to how this could happen, we mourn the victims and envelop those left behind with our love at this time of unbearable loss. Of course we will provide members of our City Attorney Family with needed counseling and support." - Mike Feuer, City Attorney— LA City Attorney (@CityAttorneyLA) September 11, 2019
“This is a horrible tragedy,” Feuer said in a statement. “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.”
Police officials said detectives were still searching for a motive, but “investigators believe the recent loss of a loved one and ongoing health issues played a significant role.”
Eric Lertzman’s mother, Phyllis Lertzman, died Aug. 26, according to her obituary.
NBC Los Angeles reported that Eric Lertzman had taken leave from work after undergoing a recent colon surgery. The attorney's health had deteriorated over the past year or so, neighbors said.
“Just terrible it came to this, that he couldn’t reach out to us or other family members for help,” longtime family friend Russ Beck told the news station.
Beck described Eric Lertzman as a “kind soul” who enjoyed riding dirt bikes until his health no longer allowed it. Lertzman’s Facebook page, which had little activity, shows him standing next to a motorcycle and wearing riding gear.
Eric and Sandy Lertzman had been married for 33 years, according to social media posts. A post on Sandy Lertzman's Facebook page indicated they celebrated their anniversary Aug. 24, less than three weeks before the homicides.
In a 2016 Facebook post, Sandy Lertzman described her husband as a “supreme” husband and father.
“I love you forever and can’t wait to share at least the next 30 years with you,” she wrote.
In a 2017 anniversary post, which was accompanied by a wedding photo, she described Eric Lertzman as her best friend.iframe allow="encrypted-media" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="650" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsandycossid.lertzman%2Fposts%2F1396263003814093&width=500" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="500">
Sandy Lertzman also heaped praise on her children on social media. On a birthday post about Rachel Lertzman, the proud mother described her as “amazing, beautiful, charismatic, dedicated, ever-environmental, fabulous, gorgeous, honest, intelligent, journey-driven, kind, loving, multitalented, nondiscriminatory, over-the-top, passionate, quick-witted.”
When Michael Lertzman turned 18 in 2017, she wrote: “You are an awesome human being, and we are proud of you and love you! XO, Mom and Dad.” She expressed similar sentiments in October, when her son turned 19.
"From the day you were born, you've brightened our world, and we're very proud of you for the awesome person you are," she wrote.
Family and friends of the Lertzman family expressed shock and sorrow over the killings. Aviva Eagle, who described herself as a cousin, said Sandy Lertzman was “always full of love and always smiling.”
Eagle described Michael Lertzman, a student at California State University Northridge, as smart with his whole future ahead of him.
Alan Dreiman, president of the university’s chapter of Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, wrote of the teen’s warmth.
“Michael was a shining light in our lives, a wound that will never heal,” Dreiman wrote. “A huge thank you to everyone who has offered support. That is the only thing getting everyone through these terrible times. Our condolences are sent out to family, friends, and the community. May we all stay strong.”
Chabad at CSUN, the university’s Jewish Student Center, also mourned him on social media.
“We are beyond devastated by the horrific news of today,” a post on the group’s Facebook page read. “Chabad at CSUN stands with our AEPI (Alpha Epsilon Pi) brothers, as well as the Northridge community.”
Camp Alonim, a program of the American Jewish University-Brandeis Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, said the teen was a longtime camper and staff member.
“Mikey’s personal warmth, his gentle spirit, his wide smile and his infectious enthusiasm will never be forgotten,” the group’s Facebook page read. “He will always be a beloved member of our Camp Alonim family. We send our deepest condolences to his sister, Rachel (CIT '10), and the many people whose lives Mikey touched.”
A woman named Erica Hartman responded that she had seen Michael Lertzman the Friday before he was killed.
“He ALWAYS had a smile on his face and greeted everyone with nothing short of genuine happiness,” Hartman wrote.
“We are devastated by this horrible news,” Julie Hertel wrote. “I know there are many current and former campers, my daughter included, that are heartbroken, shocked and numb to hear this news.
“Campers should look to their camp family to help them through this difficult time. It helps to be with or talk with others that knew and loved Mikey. Share your stories and memories about him, this will bring comfort to you and your friends. My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this awful situation.”