Oakland college gunman sought to settle score, police say
OAKLAND — The police dispatcher’s voice is calm and measured. The reporting party, she says, “is advising shots are coming from inside the building. People are running out screaming.... There’s a female, bleeding, she’s down on the ground, face-down on the concrete and bleeding.”
When it was over, six students and a secretary at a small Christian college were shot to death, allegedly at the hands of a 43-year-old South Korean national who had once been a nursing student there.
On Tuesday, a portrait began to emerge of a troubled man who apparently returned to Oikos University to settle a score.
One L. Goh had been expelled from Oikos this year “for behavioral problems, anger management,” Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters Tuesday. Goh had been teased for his broken English, and he felt bullied and angry, Jordan said.
He arrived at the campus in an industrial section of east Oakland on Monday morning looking for a certain administrator, officials said, but when he couldn’t find her, he grabbed a secretary and headed to a classroom.
He allegedly ordered the students inside to line up against the wall. When some refused, he opened fire, officials said. He had time during the rampage, authorities believe, to reload and continue shooting.
Six women and one man were killed. They ranged in age from 21 to 53 and were from South Korea, Nigeria, Nepal and the Philippines, largely immigrant students learning English, nursing, theology and Asian medicine. The secretary, Jordan said, was Goh’s first victim.
“We don’t believe that any of the victims were the ones that teased him,” Jordan said. “We believed he stopped [shooting] because people were able to use the phone. He could have heard people calling 911.”
Goh had yet to be charged Tuesday. He was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
In response to the shooting spree, the neighborhood around the school was sealed off for five hours. Goh has told police, more or less, where he threw the handgun used in the attack, and officers were on the shore of the Oakland Estuary with two police boats and a robotic sonar device looking for the weapon Tuesday, said Officer Johnna Watson, the Oakland police spokeswoman.
“The suspect has been cooperative in certain areas,” Watson said. But, she added, “he has not shown any signs of remorse for his actions yesterday, shooting 10 people, seven deceased.”
H.Y. Kim said she was in her English class on campus Monday morning, along with nearly 20 other students, when they heard a woman’s scream, then rapid gunfire. Her instructor yelled for the students to run, and they scattered, terrified, heading for the rear parking lot.
Kim got in her car, hit the gas and did not look back.
Bhutia Tshering, 38, a Buddhist who worked nights as a janitor at San Francisco International Airport, was apparently Goh’s last victim. The nursing student, who came from the Indian state of Sikkim near the Himalaya Mountains and lived in San Francisco, was killed when the gunman stole his car to make a getaway, according to the Contra Costa Times.
Tshering was one of six victims identified Tuesday by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau. Identification of the seventh has been withheld pending identification of next of kin. The other victims are Judith O. Seymore, 53, of San Jose; Lydia H. Sim, 21, of Hayward; Sonam Choedon, 33, of El Cerrito; Kim G. Eunhea, 23, of Union City; and Doris Chibuko, 40, of San Leandro.
Police say Goh purchased the handgun legally in California this year. After leaving the carnage behind, authorities believe, he headed to Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline near Oakland International Airport and tossed the gun into the water.
His next stop, authorities say, was a Safeway at the Alameda South Shore Center, a mall about five miles from Oikos University. Goh went to the grocery store sometime in late morning or early afternoon, sources at the mall said.
“He tripped and fell coming out the door,” said one source, who requested that her name not be used because police were investigating. “A security officer came over to make sure he was OK, and the guy turned emotional and broke down and asked the security guy to call the Police Department.”
Alameda police officers detained Goh until Oakland officers could retrieve him.
Goh’s family immigrated to the United States from South Korea sometime in the late 1980s and ran a liquor store in Virginia, according to a colleague who worked with Goh’s father at a Korean market across the bay in Daly City.
Young Ko, Goh’s father, who is in his 70s, lives in an Oakland apartment building for seniors and commutes by BART train six days a week to his job stocking merchandise, said the colleague, who declined to give his name.
Early last year, that routine was interrupted when his youngest son, who was in the Army, was killed in an accident. Ko missed a few days’ work to set his affairs in order, then returned, mourning silently and privately.
On Monday, his day was interrupted when his phone rang with news concerning another of his sons, the second of three, this one a different kind of tragedy. He hurriedly ran out of the market, telling a worried colleague only that he had a pressing matter to attend to.
A few years after Ko began working at the market, he asked the owner to give his son a job. Goh got the job, but he appeared dissatisfied and had difficulty adjusting. After butting heads with colleagues, he left the job after less than a year.
He worked briefly for a San Mateo company, delivering sacks of rice. That job didn’t last long either. His father began worrying about what Goh would do once he is no longer around, Ko’s colleague recalled.
Ko was the one who saw the ad for the Oikos nursing program. He was the one who urged his son to enroll. And he was the one who paid the tuition.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Ashley Powers, Lee Romney and Matt Stevens contributed to this report.