Andrey Priadkin was studying for finals in the Santa Monica College library when he heard the screams.
"I figured that something happened to one of the students or employees," the 34-year-old said. "The one female was screaming really loud. I was sitting near the emergency exit, and since I thought it was someone injured, I just went over toward the main entrance to see what happened."
Priadkin said students then began running toward the emergency exit. "I realized maybe I should do the same," he said.
He was about 20 feet outside the building when he realized he had left his belongings behind. He turned back, but the door was locked. He peered in a window and saw a man inside.
"I saw a guy wearing all black, holding a big gun. He looked very calm," Priadkin said. "I stared at him. I'm thinking maybe he's a police force."
The man stared at Priadkin for about "three to four seconds" before he turned and began firing, Priadkin said.
"That's when I realized I have to go," he said. "I just ran."
The man appeared to be wearing some sort of vest and Priadkin said he saw only one weapon.
"I thought he was campus police or someone that reacted [to emergencies]," Priadkin said. "Only when I saw him shooting, I realized."
Dustin Hahn, 25, photo and business major, said he was in the back of the library when the shots were fired.
He had been there since 9 a.m. studying and taking an online final. He said he was almost finished with the test when he was jolted out of his concentration.
"First thing I heard was a really loud boom, it sounded kind of like a bomb," he said. Hahn said there had been a lot of construction going on around the area of campus, so he didn't think much of it.
But Hahn said some students around him took off running. He kept sitting at his table. Nothing happened for about a minute, and some students had even started walking back to their seats.
"Suddenly, I started hearing screaming and kids closer to the front of the library running back. And then I heard shots fired," Hahn said.
Hahn said he heard seven piercing loud shots before he realized he needed to run.
'"I ran like 10 feet, and ran back to grab my laptop," he said.
"At first I was terrified, I was shaking," he said. "I really don't know what to say. What to think. It's never been this close to me. I mean, we had a couple prank calls this year, a few false alarms on other campuses. So I didn't really think it could happen here."
Hahn said he saw students hiding under tables "completely terrified."
The shooting left at least three people wounded in the Santa Monica College area, and began when the alleged gunman broke into a nearby home and set fire to another property, law enforcement sources said.
The gunman then opened fire on several cars and appeared to try to carjack two vehicles, the sources said. One of the attempted carjackings occurred near the campus library and college police station. The suspect fled to the library, where he was wounded by police, the sources added.
Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center said it had received three victims. Two were listed in critical condition and the third was listed as serious, the hospital said.
President Obama arrived in Santa Monica Friday morning as part of his trip to California. Secret Service officials said they are aware of the shooting, but do not expect it to affect his trip, though it did prompt his motorcade to be rerouted.