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Santa Monica rampage witnesses describe gunshots, chaos

Law enforcement officers take up a position on the Santa Monica College campus.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Andrey Priadkin was studying for finals in the Santa Monica College library when he heard the screams.

Thinking someone was hurt, the 34-year-old dance student walked toward the main entrance. A group of students rushed past, running toward the emergency exit. Priadkin ran, too.

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.

“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 [in the] police force.”

The man stared back for a few seconds, Priadkin said. Then he turned and fired.

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“That’s when I realized I have to go,” Priadkin said. “I just ran.”

The college and surrounding neighborhood descended into chaos about midday Friday as a gunman armed with a semiautomatic weapon opened fire. It was a bloody trail that began on a residential street, where the man reportedly killed his brother and father before setting their house on fire, and ended on the college campus, where police fatally shot the gunman.

By the time the rampage was over, four people had been killed by the shooter. And from start to finish, witnesses described horrific, surreal moments.

Chris Perez, an assistant manager at the Jiffy Lube near Pico and Cloverfield boulevards, was working in the back garage when he heard gunshots. He ran to the front of the store, where customers stared in horror out the window.

A cashier told Perez a man dressed all in black had gotten out of a blue car and opened fire on a bus on the street. A bullet was lodged in the storefront’s concrete wall.

Perez ordered the customers to duck and moved them into an office. “I didn’t want anyone dying on my watch,” he said.

The blue car belonged to Laura Sisk, 41, of Culver City, who had been carjacked at gunpoint minutes earlier. The gunman, she later said, told her to drive him to the college.

Once there, the rampage continued.

The gunman allegedly opened fire on bystanders, students and pursing police.

Brittany Bennett was working on a project in a math classroom at Santa Monica College when she looked out the window and saw a man clothed entirely in black headed for the nearby library. He was carrying a big gun, she said. He seemed relaxed.

“I thought he was police,” she said. “He looked like he was wearing SWAT gear but with nothing written on it.”

Dustin Hahn, 25, was in the campus library when he had heard a loud boom. He didn’t think anything of it until he heard screams.

As he ran past the glass reading rooms in the back, Hahn said he saw students hiding under tables, looking “completely terrified.”

Hahn raced to the top of a parking garage, where he saw many students still walking toward campus. He screamed at them to run away.

“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,” he said. “So I didn’t really think it could happen here.”

Stephen Bell and his classmates were prepping for their final tap dancing performance when two women ran into the classroom. A woman had been shot in the library, they said.

“When she said that word — ‘shot’ — we immediately shut the door, lay down on the flood and shut the lights,” Bell said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, Columbine High School.’”

Bell’s instructor, Joey Letteri, was running a few minutes late for class. When he got to the room, the door was closed and the lights were off.

“I thought it was a surprise and that the class got a cake for me or something,” he said, shaking his head.

When he got inside, Letteri tried to help his students stay calm. One of the women who had run into the room was crying and shaking, he said. The other was vomiting.

A SWAT team finally arrived, and Letteri said he made them slide a badge under the door before letting them inside. Authorities led the students out — individually, their hands in the air.

rosanna.xia@latimes.com

joseph.serna@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com


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