SANTA MONICA, Calif. – A man with a semi-automatic rifle killed at least four people and wounded several others Friday as he carried out a deadly rampage across several blocks of a normally idyllic beachfront city. Police shot him dead in the Santa Monica College Library.
The violence began when the gunman, dressed in all black and wearing what appeared to be a ballistic jacket, opened fire on a house where two bodies were found, Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.
Two officials said Friday night that the killings began as a domestic violence incident and the victims in the home were the gunman’s father and brother.
As the house burst into flames, the man carjacked a woman at gunpoint, spraying bullets as she drove and telling her to stop so he could shoot, police said. He wounded a woman in a car before directing his driver to head to campus, where police said he opened fire on a city bus, a police car and other vehicles, as well as bystanders and pedestrians.
The driver of an SUV leaving a campus parking lot was killed and a passenger was wounded as the car crashed through a block wall.
From there, the gunman entered the campus, fatally wounding a woman as he made his way toward the college’s library, where students were studying for final exams.
“We saw a woman get shot in the head,” said administrative assistant Trena Johnson, who looked out the window of the dean’s office, where she works, when she heard gunfire. “I haven’t been able to stop shaking,” she said.
Inside the library, students reported hearing gunfire and screams.
“I was totally scared to death and I can’t believe it happened so fast,” said Vincent Zhang, a 20-year-old economics major.
The gunman continued to shoot at people in the library, Seabrooks said, but apparently didn’t hit anybody there as dozens ran for the exits.
“The officers came in and directly engaged the suspect and he was shot and killed on the scene,” she said.
Just 3 miles away, President Barack Obama was attending a fundraising luncheon. Secret Service spokesman Max Milien said the agency was aware of the shooting, which began just before noon, but it had no impact on the president’s event.
After the gunman was killed, police wearing helmets and armed with shotguns and rifles searched the campus for a possible second shooter. A man dressed entirely in black, the words “Life is a Gamble” on the back of his sweatshirt, was seen being led away in handcuffs.
Sgt. Richard Lewis, a Santa Monica police spokesman, said at a news conference Friday night that the man was questioned and released, and he is not a suspect.
The identities of those who were killed were not immediately released.
Three of the gunman’s victims died immediately. The woman near the library died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she had been admitted in critical condition.
Two other women were also admitted to the hospital, said Dr. Marshall Morgan, the chief of emergency medicine. One was listed in critical condition after undergoing surgery. The other arrived in serious condition but was upgraded to fair condition Friday night.
Three other women went to UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica with relatively minor injuries, Morgan said.
Nine crime scenes were under investigation, said Lewis, the police spokesman.