Santa Monica shooting was premeditated, police say
The shooting rampage that left five people dead in Santa Monica on Friday was premeditated, and the gunman had more than than 1,300 rounds of ammunition with him during the attack, police said Saturday.
The shootings, which left four victims and the shooter dead, took place on a number of typically quiet streets in Santa Monica around noon and ended on the campus of Santa Monica College.
“Any time someone puts on a vest of some sort, comes out with a bag full of loaded magazines, has an extra receiver, has a handgun and has a semiautomatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people and has to be killed at the hands of police,” Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said, “I believe that’s premeditated.”
The gunman was connected to Santa Monica College as recently as 2010, police said. He died of multiple gunshot wounds after three police officers confronted him near the campus library.
Law enforcement sources in Washington and Los Angeles identified the shooting suspect as John Zawahri, who was in his 20s. Other law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the suspect had some mental problems in the past and was angry over his parents’ divorce.
Police will not publicly identify the suspect until his next of kin has been notified, Seabrooks said. She said his relatives could be out of the country.
At 11:52 a.m. Friday, residents of a quiet neighborhood near the 10 Freeway reported hearing gunshots. Eyewitnesses saw a man in all black, wearing an ammunition belt and holding a semiautomatic rifle, who stood outside a home engulfed in flames near the intersection of Kansas and Yorkshire avenues. The gunman had a “familial connection” to the house, police said.
Firefighters later found the bodies of two men inside the home. Police sources said the bodies were those of Samir Zawahri, 55, the owner of the house and Zawahri’s father, and one of his adult sons.
Santa Monica police said they had dealt with the suspect in 2006, including a call to the same address on Yorkshire Avenue, but the specifics of the case could not be discussed because the suspect was a juvenile at the time.
The gunman accosted the driver of a Mazda hatchback, got in the car and told her to drive him to Santa Monica College, the driver said in an interview with The Times. The gunman fired several rounds at random into the neighborhood with the semiautomatic rifle, witnesses said.
Near Cloverfield and Pico boulevards, the gunman fired on a city bus from front to back, shattering windows. Passengers dived to the floor for cover. Two passengers were injured, treated at local hospitals and released, police said.
At a parking lot at 20th and Pearl streets, the suspect fired at a red Ford Explorer, hitting driver Carlos Franco, who died at the scene. Franco was a Santa Monica College employee.
The passenger of the Ford Explorer has “a very grim prognosis,” Seabrooks said.
Campus police intercepted the gunman on the edge of campus and exchanged gunfire with him, authorities said. They continued to trade shots as the man ran toward the school’s library and shot a woman outside the building’s entrance before disappearing inside.
The woman outside the library later died at a hospital.
Inside the library, a group of people hid inside a “safe room” when they heard or saw the shooter coming, Seabrooks said. The group barricaded the door with materials found inside the room and dodged bullets the gunman fired through the drywall.
“It’s miraculous that those patrons were not physically injured,” she said.
Three police officers “neutralized” the shooter, Seabrooks said. He died of multiple gunshot wounds. During the rampage, five people were wounded, two seriously.
Officials stressed that they did not consider the incident a school shooting, because it began off campus.
“It was unfortunate that the suspect chose Santa Monica College to finish the crime spree,” Santa Monica College Police Chief Albert Vasquez said.
Times staff writers Marisa Gerber, Joel Rubin, Martha Groves, Angel Jennings, Kate Mather, Rosanna Xia, Joseph Serna, Samantha Schaefer and Scott Glover contributed to this report.
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