SEAL BEACH, Calif. – The deadliest shooting in Orange County history unfolded Wednesday in a crowded Seal Beach beauty salon when a lone gunman opened fire, leaving eight dead and one critically injured.
Co-workers and customers of those killed speculated that the gunman may have been motivated by a long-running and bitter custody dispute with one of the stylists at Salon Meritage. The name they provided matches a custody case in Los Angeles County, but police refused to comment on the motive or to confirm whether the shooter had any ties to the salon.
Police took a middle-aged man into custody minutes after the gunfire, blocks from the salon. They reported finding multiple weapons of unknown caliber and type in his vehicle but had not released his name late Wednesday evening.
“We feel very confident we have the single and only suspect,” Seal Beach police Sgt. Steve Bowles said. “There may be something involved with someone in the salon.”
Neighbors of the salon, off Pacific Coast Highway in downtown Seal Beach, reported hearing a volley of around 20 gunshots shortly before 1:30 p.m. “Boom. Boom. Boom,” said Vic Sanchez, a construction worker who was across the street. “And then pa-pa-pa-pa.”
Inside the salon, a woman who gave her name only as Cindy – saying she was too shaken to use her full name – was having her hair colored when the gunman entered. She said he approached a female stylist and fired. Cindy thought it was a Halloween prank.
Then the man shot a female customer whose hair was being shampooed before turning and shooting the salon owner, Randy Fannin, who was coloring Cindy’s hair. She said she ran into the restroom of a business next door, closed the door, turned out the light, and listened to more gunshots.
“I just kept hearing boom, boom, boom, boom,” Cindy said. “I ran out. I didn’t see his face. I just saw the gun in his hand and him shoot (everybody).”
One of the victims was apparently shot in his car, outside the salon, according to witness accounts.
Police said every chair at the salon was occupied when the shooting started. Six people were declared dead at the scene; two others died of their wounds at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. One was in critical condition late Wednesday.
Bowles said an officer saw a man who matched a description of the gunman leave the parking lot and followed him.
The suspect was taken into custody moments later without incident, he said.
The suspect was taken to the Seal Beach jail for questioning, Bowles said.
The shooting was the worst mass killing in Orange County history. Before Wednesday, the county’s worst massacre happened in 1976, when Edward Charles Allaway shot nine people at California State University, Fullerton, leaving seven dead.
Seal Beach is one of Orange County’s smallest and safest cities, a seaside town of about 25,000 residents. Before Wednesday, there had been four homicides there in the past 10 years, the most recent in 2010.