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Suspect's dislike for drugs, homelessness may have led to shootings that killed 4 in metro Phoenix

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MESA, Ariz. (AP) — A man’s strong dislike for drugs and homelessness may have led to five separate shootings in the Phoenix metro area that left four people dead and a woman wounded, authorities said Tuesday.

Iren Byers, 20, was taken into custody Sunday on suspicion of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder, Mesa police said.

He remained jailed without bond Tuesday, and it wasn’t immediately known if Byers has a lawyer yet who can speak on his behalf. His next scheduled court appearance is Friday.

Byers took responsibility for the shootings and told officers where they could find the clothes and 9mm handgun used in the crimes, police said.

Video surveillance footage showed the suspect wearing the clothing reported by witnesses at multiple shooting scenes, police said.

“He directed us to where not only the murder weapon was, but where the clothing was that he wore when he committed all four of these shootings (in Mesa) and basically laid out the whole story for us,” Mesa police Detective Richard Encinas told Phoenix radio station KTAR on Tuesday.

Byers “also admitted to a fifth shooting that occurred on the 26th of May in Phoenix where that person was also killed,” Encinas said.

Byers apparently met the victims at random and fatally shot most of the victims in the head when they said things that upset him, according to police investigators.

The shootings began around 2:45 p.m. Friday in Phoenix, according to court documents.

Byers was walking along a canal with 41-year-old Nicholas Arnstad, who reportedly was smoking fentanyl. Byers allegedly shot Arnstad over his drug use and because Byers’ brother also abused fentanyl, police said.

Byers went to Mesa’s Beverly Park later Friday and met 41-year-old Julian Cox, who allegedly talked to Byers about using “blues,” the street name for fentanyl pills. Byers shot and killed Cox before fleeing the scene, police said.

Byers then met 41-year-old Stephen Young at a Mesa convenience store late Friday night, police said. Young wanted to smoke fentanyl, and Byers allegedly shot him and ran off.

Byers next talked to a John Swain, a 40-year-old homeless man, near railroad tracks in Mesa, according to court documents. Authorities later found Swain shot dead.

Police said Byers met his final victim while walking on Mesa’s Main Street. He talked with 36-year-old Angela Fonseca until she made him mad, then allegedly shot her in the face.

Fonseca was taken to the hospital and underwent multiple surgeries but is expected to survive, according to authorities.

Byers was arrested near his grandmother’s apartment complex about a half mile from the last shooting.

At least one shell casing from each crime scene matched the same handgun, police said.

“Once we were able to locate him and conducted the interview, that’s when it turned into where he admitted to the whole thing,” Encinas said.

Byers told investigators that he did not call for medical aid for the victims because they “didn’t deserve it,” according to court documents.

“Knowing that Iren Byers will have to face the consequences of his unjustified actions is the start of justice to be seen,” Detective Brandi George, a Mesa police spokeswoman, said in a statement.