A suspect has been identified in the shooting rampage Friday in various locations around Santa Monica, California that culminated on Santa Monica College Campus and left five people dead.*
One of those dead was the alleged shooter, whom the Los Angeles Times has identified as John Zawahri, citing five law enforcement sources in Los Angeles and Washington. Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said at a press conference Saturday that the shooter was 23-years-old on Friday, and would have turned 24 on Saturday. She declined to identify him at this point, saying the family had not yet been notified.
The fifth victim, Marcela Franco, a 26-year-old student died Sunday after being gravely injured in the shooting.
Seabrooks described the suspect as “a cowardly murderer.”
The incident began around 11:50 Pacific Time on Friday, at a house near Kansas Avenue and Yorkshire Avenue. Santa Monica Fire Department Chief Scott Ferguson said at the press conference Saturday that the approximately “thousand square foot residence” was “engulfed” in flames. Two bodies were discovered on the preliminary sweep and Ferguson said it was clear at that point that they would not be able to resuscitate the victims.
Ferguson said he could not release the information about how the two persons in the house had died, whether they been shot or killed by the fire. The fire, he said, is “under investigation,” but that it “doesn’t appear an accelerant was used” to ignite the fire.
Sources told the L.A. Times that the two victims were the alleged shooter’s father and brother. Seabrooks confirmed a “familial” connection to the house, but could not confirm the victims.
The alleged shooter then flagged down a car and forced the female driver at gunpoint to drive him to nearby Santa Monica College. Seabrooks said he told the driver he would kill her, and she was “obviously terrified.” She drove him to the College and then left when given the opportunity.
He fired several shots in the neighborhood of the house. During the drive, he allegedly fired at a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, one of the public buses.
He shot two more people in a red Ford Explorer, Carlos Franco and his daughter Marcela. Both were killed.
Campus police had by that point been made aware and attempted to head off the gunman at the edge of campus. They exchanged fire. He ran into the library, where, according to Seabrooks, “he attempted to kill several library patrons hiding in a ‘safe room,’” and she said it was “miraculous” that none of the patrons were harmed.
At 12:05 p.m., officers on scene radioed in to say that the suspect had been neutralized. He died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The shooter was carrying a 223 semi-automatic rifle. He was carrying a bag that contained approximately 20 loaded magazines, according to Santa Monica Police Sgt. Richard Lewis, the upper receiver to a 223 rifle, and a 44-caliber revolver. He was dressed all in black and wearing a “tactical type vest.” He dropped the bag at some point, and police ensured there were no explosives in the bag.
Seabrooks said the suspect had a connection to SMC, through a family member and possibly his own enrollment. She said the police “did have contact” with him over an incident in 2006, but as he was a juvenile at the time, Seabrooks said she could not release the details. She said she could not disclose any information about the suspect’s mental history.
She said the shooting rampage did not meet the definition of a “school shooting,” as several shooting incidents occurred throughout the city, culminating on Santa Monica College campus, whereas a school shooting is technically defined as when a shooter goes “specifically” to a campus.
She said the contents of the bag and the shooter’s actions indicated that it was a “premeditated” crime, though she said she had “no idea what his intent was” or if he intended to end up on the campus.
President Barack Obama was in Santa Monica at the time of the shooting for a fundraiser. Seabrooks said that his presence had the “benefit” that “we had a lot of resources available to us for a ready response.”
*This story has been updated with the increased death toll.