A 24-year-old man has been charged with four counts of murder in connection with a pair of shootings earlier this month in Philadelphia.
Police said Wednesday that Edwin Vargas, of Fairhill, was one of three shooters who unloaded at least 50 shots – killing three men and leaving another seriously injured – Jan. 9 on the 7300 block of Rowland Avenue in Mayfair.
Just a week earlier, on Jan. 3, Vargas allegedly fatally shot 28-year-old Caesar Santos in Hunting Park.
Prosecutors also approved charges against Vargas relating to a series of shootings targeting his ex-girlfriend in which no one was injured.
Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom told reporters that the motive for the killings was “domestic,” but he declined to elaborate on the relationship between Vargas and the victims.
“It seems clear that this is an individual who was banned from accessing firearms, but was able to do so anyway, and that a history of toxic behavior toward a former romantic partner may have motivated what we allege are his violent, criminal acts,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.
Vargas was taken into custody last week and is being held without bail. The Defender Association, which is representing him in the Hunting Park homicide and domestic violence case, declined to comment.
He was on probation at the time of the shootings, following a 2020 arrest for aggravated assault and illegal possession of a gun and a 2016 gun case. The DA’s Office said two bench warrants were issued Jan. 5 for violating the terms of his release.
Authorities said Vargas’s ex-girlfriend reported getting a phone call from an unknown number in the early morning hours of Dec. 30. Then, prosecutors said, she heard 10 to 15 gunshots outside her Harrowgate home.
She experienced something similar a few hours later, and the woman reported receiving threatening text messages and voicemails, in which Vargas claimed responsibility for the shootings.
A few days later, Caesar Santos was shot while riding in the passenger seat of a car that then crashed near the intersection of 9th Street and Roosevelt Boulevard. The driver was not struck but sustained minor injuries in the crash.
On Jan. 4, the day after Santos was killed, Vargas returned to his ex-girlfriend’s home and fired more shots at the property, according to the DA’s Office.
Investigators said two vehicles – one with the four victims inside and one with the three gunmen – stopped on Rowland Avenue, near Lincoln High School, prior to the Jan. 9 shooting, which occurred at around 10 p.m. Both cars had been reported stolen in North Jersey, the DA’s Office said.
Killed in the gunfire were 18-year-old Christopher Batista, 19-year-old Miguel Delgado and 24-year-old Miguel Santos, according to authorities.
Detectives are still trying to identify and apprehend the two other shooters.
In addition to murder, Vargas is facing charges of attempted murder, multiple weapons violations, terroristic threats, stalking and other offenses, prosecutors said.