Report: Suspect in fatal Milpitas freeway shooting had personal connection to victim

A new link has emerged between the man fatally shot last weekend by rangers in Big Sur and a homicide earlier this month in Milpitas in which he was implicated.

Kevin Anthony Alaniz (Courtesy Monterey County District Attorney’s Office)

Kevin Anthony Alaniz, 26, of Milpitas, was killed by state park rangers after he fired a handgun at hikers in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Alaniz is suspected in the death of Matthew Rios, a 30-year-old Milpitas resident who was killed June 17 on Interstate 680 in a car-to-car shooting north of Landess Avenue. After that incident, the California Highway Patrol had obtained an arrest warrant for Alaniz in Rios’ killing when they heard from authorities about the Big Sur incident.

KTVU has reported that Alaniz and Rios were related in another way: The two knew each other and were about to become stepbrothers, according to the report, which added that Alaniz’s father was engaged to Rios’ mother, Madonna Simmons. She told KTVU that in days following Rios’ death that she “prayed for justice and hoped the shooter would be found. But (she) never wanted this.”

“The pain I have inside is too much to bear. It’s too much to bear,” Simmons told the station, adding that Alaniz was like family to her.

“Of course everybody wants justice and answers for all of this. It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare,” she added. “Everything I heard in the news. All these things happen in Monterey. It’s devastating. I cannot believe it.”

Investigators with the sheriff’s office in both Monterey and Santa Clara counties, as well as the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and the CHP, did not respond immediately for a request for comment about the report.

Police have said that Alaniz is not a suspect in any other freeway shootings that occurred in the Bay Area earlier this month. KTVU said investigators are waiting from toxicology results to determine if Alaniz was under the influence of drugs at the time of his death. Jeannine Pacioni, Monterey County’s district attorney, told the station that Alaniz is suspected of having psychedelic mushrooms in his possession when he was killed. An investigation into the freeway shooting is ongoing.

Meanwhile, friends and family of Rios have set up a GoFundMe site, called “Help Lay Matthew to Rest,” that has raised more than $5,000 as of Friday afternoon.

“Madonna Simmons tragically lost her beloved son Matthew Rios on June 17, 2019,” the page says. “He was shot and killed while driving home from work that evening. … He was taken from his loved ones far too soon. Matthew was Madonna’s only child and the center of her world. Since his infancy, she raised him alone after his father passed away suddenly. Matthew lived with his mother and was like her right hand. She is so terribly lost without him.”

The site also says that Rios will be missed by a “large, close-knit extended family; his dear friends; and his coworkers. In addition to the people who love him here, he leaves behind his girlfriend in the Philippines, whom he planned to marry next year.”

Keona Balaoro, who donated to the page, wrote that the two were cousins and that Rios was “a super motivated guy and cool guy. I remember about this time last year it was just the two of us in the kids’ corner aka my grandpa’s bedroom. We were sitting talking about many things.”

Balaoro wrote that Rios had been excited about a planned move to the Philippines, saying “he was ready to fly out to PI and start his rice business and maybe one day marry his girlfriend. I told him he had my support and that I love him.”

Aaron Simmons, another cousin, wrote that he had known Rios his whole life and that “Matthew personally changed my life when he introduced me to Hip Hop. Believe it or not, I first learned of Tupac from him and bought his albums as a result which opened my mind up to a whole culture and way of life. His introduction was a small ripple that affected me formatively. I’ll remember seeing him often at our grandparent’s house and catching up briefly … only now I’ll never have the chance again. He had a smile on his face whenever I saw him. He was a super cool guy and my heart aches for my poor Tita who lost her only son.”

According to a report just after Rios’ murder in Balitang America, an international nightly news program that focuses on Filipino communities in the United States and Canada, Rios’ mother seemed to suspect at the time that the killing was random.

“All these things that are happening out there this is really crazy,” Simmons told that news outlet, apparently referencing a spate of several freeway shootings around the same time. “This is a nightmare for everybody. Whatever these people are doing they’re sick in their mind. It’s sickening. All these things about guns. This needs to stop.”

Simmons immigrated to the United States in 1979, according to the report, and raised Rios on her own since he was a child. A family relative said Rios’ father died several years ago. Simmons also said her son had plans to marry his girlfriend from the Philippines next year.

“I’m going to miss my son too much because everyday he always tells me when I wake up, before he goes he says ingat ka, para ate mahalmahal kita” — or ”take care, I love you” — “every day, there’s not even one day that he missed to say that — and I’m going to miss that.”

Unaware at the time that a loved one eventually would be pursued as a suspect in her son’s death, Simmons told the news outlet that she wanted justice.

“I want this guy to be prosecuted,” she said of Rios’ killer. “I want him to get caught. I want him to be put away. If he doesn’t get caught I want him to answer to God why he did this to my son.”