Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday for the funeral of a father and daughter slain during a gunman’s rampage through Santa Monica earlier this month.
Friends and family filed into St. Monica Catholic Church behind two caskets – one holding Carlos Franco, the other his daughter Marcela.
During a 13-minute shooting frenzy, authorities say John Zawahri, 23, killed his father, Samir, 55, and older brother, Christopher, 25, at their Santa Monica home before forcing a woman at gunpoint to drive him to Santa Monica College.
Along the way he fired on other vehicles, including a sedan, a bus and a sport utility vehicle carrying Carlos and Marcela Franco. His final victim was Margarita Gomez, 68, who was visiting the college campus to collect cans.
During the mid-morning services Wednesday, crosses were placed atop the father’s and daughter’s caskets as they were carried into the funeral Mass. St. Monica quickly filled with hundreds of people, some who stood in the back of the church.
A large portrait of Franco and his daughter together hung nearby as a man and woman sang a duet in English and Spanish. On the cover of the program, a picture of the father and daughter showed Marcela snuggling her head against her father’s.
Friends and family have said that everything Carlos Franco did was for his family.
“Every time I visited him, he would talk about his daughters and his family,” nephew Mario Franco, a member of the college’s workforce and economic development department, said in a statement after the shooting. “He was a big family man. Everything he did was literally for his daughters.”
Carlos Franco, 68, a groundskeeper at Santa Monica College, had planned to spend that Friday afternoon running errands for his daughters. Marcela, 26, rode along so she could buy textbooks for summer school, a statement from Santa Monica College said.
Carlos’ older daughter, Letitia, had a doctor’s appointment later that afternoon and Franco planned to join her.
But those plans were shattered when bullets from Zawahri’s semiautomatic rifle struck Franco’s Explorer as he pulled out of a campus parking lot, killing him.
Marcela, also hit by gunfire, was taken to UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, where she later died with her family by her side.
Days after the shooting, Marcela’s aunt, Margaret Quinones-Perez, 58, remembered her niece as “smart, beautiful, sexy, frisky, outgoing.”
Marcela wanted to be a clinical psychologist. When the college she had attended, Cal State Dominguez Hills, couldn’t provide the units she needed to graduate in the fall, she decided to take the courses at Santa Monica, where her father worked.
“She was smart, obviously really pretty, and just very loving,” said Marcela’s boyfriend, Ryan Payne, 26, who also spent the weekend by her side. They had been dating exclusively for only about a month, but “it’s been the best month of my life,” he said.
Carlos Franco “was a dedicated husband and father and an integral part of the Santa Monica College family,” Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang said in a statement. His work was appreciated by “anyone who strolled through the main campus, especially the quad.”
Moments before his SUV was sprayed with bullets, Franco had left his wife a voicemail.
“I’m running a little late,” Franco said in the message. “But I want you to know that I still love you.”