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Santa Monica 'very quiet city' despite shootings, police say

ShootingsColleges and UniversitiesHomicideSanta Monica College

Santa Monica is a "very quiet city" with the neighborhood around the college peaceful in recent years until a recent spate of shootings, a police official said.

The neighborhood near the college "has in the past — not for a few years now — been subject to a few shootings, some gang violence," said Sgt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department.

The most recent incident came Tuesday morning, when police say two men standing in an alley in the 1500 block of Michigan Avenue were shot when a gunman walked up and opened fire.

The gunman ran to a vehicle, believed to be a blue Infiniti, and drove off westbound on Michigan. Police are continuing to investigate.

The victims, described as 25 to 35 years old, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to their upper bodies. Paramedics took both to a trauma center, where one man later died and the second was in critical condition, police said.

It's the third incident of gun violence to shake the prosperous coastal city in less than a week.

The fatal shootings have altered the crime picture in Santa Monica. Lewis said that, as of Monday, crime in Santa Monica was down 10% compared with the same time last year. The L.A. Times Homicide Report shows that one homicide occurred in Santa Monica in 2012 and two the previous year.

Lewis said Tuesday's incident was unrelated to either Friday's rampage that ended at Santa Monica College or to a shooting Sunday.

According to authorities, Friday's violence began when Zawahri killed his father, Samir, 55, and brother, Christopher, 25, at their Yorkshire Avenue home in Santa Monica and set the structure on fire.

He then carjacked a motorist and forced her at gunpoint to drive him to Santa Monica College. Along the way, he fired on other vehicles, including a sport utility vehicle carrying Carlos Franco, 68, a groundskeeper at the college, and his daughter, Marcela, 26. Both died.

After entering the campus, Zawahri shot and killed Margarita Gomez, 68, known to campus regulars for collecting cans to recycle. He then entered the library, where he was rushed and killed by police.

"Despite a well-earned reputation as a relatively safe city, certainly Santa Monica has been rocked by these shootings," Mayor Pam O'Connor said. "The community is understandably shocked and concerned."

In the Sunday incident, police said, shots were fired at a 32-year-old man riding a bicycle along the 2900 block of Exposition Boulevard about a mile from the college campus.

The cyclist was hit three times and was in stable condition Tuesday, Lewis said. Police were seeking Levy Ernesto Rodriguez, 24, of Santa Monica in connection with the shooting. Lewis said the incident was possibly gang-related.

Residents, O’Connor said, "draw strength from our community ties, and we're going to work together to both heal from this and build a strong, resilient community."

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

martha.groves@latimes.com

 

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ShootingsColleges and UniversitiesHomicideSanta Monica College
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