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Santa Monica gunman shot dead after killing 6

9:03 PM, Jun 7, 2013   |    comments
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In a series of violent confrontations Friday, a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle killed as many as six people and wounded at least five others before being shot dead by police inside the Santa Monica College library, police said.

A "person of interest" was also taken into custody, but it was not immediately clear whether he was involved in the shooting spree, which began just before noon PT (3 p.m. ET).

"We are not convinced 100% that the suspect who was killed operated in solo or a lone capacity," Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said at a late afternoon news briefing.

She said that "as many as half a dozen victims were shot and killed" and that "several more were injured."

One of the dead was shot outside the library of the two-year college, where students were studying for or taking final exams.

The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was described as white or Latino with curly hair and 20 to 30 years old. Witnesses said he wore body armor and a helmet and brandished a military-style assault rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and an ammunition belt. The back of his black sweatshirt read "Life is a Gamble."

He was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police in the library as students dived for cover or ran for safety. Beforehand, students, many wearing headphones, either did not hear or ignored several "pops."

There were no immediate reports on whether students or staff were hit by the gunfire. The 38-acre main campus remained locked down throughout the afternoon. The bomb squad examined suspicious bags the gunman left behind and police searched for a possible second suspect.

Three women in a car were shot and wounded during what the Santa Monica police called a "series of random encounters." One later died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Another victim was in critical condition and one was in fair condition Friday night, the university hospital said. .

Three other women, including one shot in a car, were treated for minor injuries at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and later released.

The day's violence occurred about three miles from where President Obama was appearing at a Democratic fundraiser. Authorities do not believe it was related to the president's visit.

The series of incidents -- Santa Monica police said possibly six -- began when a gunman tried to break into a house near the two-year college and then set fire to and shot up the home, about a mile from campus.

Two bodies were found in the house on Yorkshire Avenue, a fire department spokesman told the Associated Press. At least one of the two men died from gunshots, sources told KABC-TV.

Neighbors told KNBC-TV that the gunman's father and brother lived in the home.

Jerry Cunningham Rathner, who lives nearby, told AP that she heard gunshots shortly before noon and then saw a man shooting at the neighbors' home. The residence quickly erupted in flames and billowing smoke.

She said the gunman then went to the corner and pointed a military-style rifle at a woman in a car, ordering her to pull over. He then motioned to another car to slow down before opening fire.

"He fired three to four shots into the car -- boom, boom, boom, right at her," Rathner told AP, adding the driver was wounded only in the shoulder.

The gunman then carjacked a woman and shot at other vehicles on Pico Boulevard, including a transit bus and police vehicle.

"This guy just stepped out with a big rifle," Santa Monica College student Marta Fagerstroem, who was aboard the Metro bus, told KNBC-TV.

The gunman then fled, and police believe he went on to shoot several others along the Pico Boulevard area. One shooting occurred at 28th Street and Pico Boulevard, followed by one slaying at Pico and Cloverfield boulevards and two more near 19th and Pearl streets.

KABC-TV reported that another shooting, believed to be related, was reported on 21st Street, just east of campus. A witness said a man dressed in black got out of a vehicle and started shooting indiscriminately in the intersection.

The gunman eventually made his way onto campus. A lock-down was ordered and police evacuated some students.

Jimes Gillespie, who was studying in the library, told the Associated Press that he saw a gunman with a shotgun but also heard gunfire from a handgun, leading him to believe there were two shooters. But law enforcement told other news outlets only one gunman was involved.

Sam Luster was preparing for a presentation when he heard gunfire.

"We didn't know what was happening until all the students at the entrance of the library started running down towards the bottom of the library," he told KABC-TV. He then took cover under a desk before heading to the exit, where he heard multiple gun shots.

Chad Lazzari said several hundred students ran to a door that was locked on one side, causing panic. He said a car parked in the middle of the campus was riddled with bullet.

The college, with an enrollment of about 34,000, canceled afternoon and evening final exams at the main campus. All Santa Monica city schools were also placed on lockdown.

Obama was scheduled to helicopter back to the Los Angeles airport but instead traveled by motorcade "to avoid any impact on the ongoing local response to the shooting in the area," the White House press office said.

The president left LAX about 2:40 p.m. to travel to the Mojave Desert resort of Rancho Mirage for his summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Michael Winter, USA TODAY

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