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Santa Monica gunman's first victims were family

11:58 AM, Jun 9, 2013   |    comments
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks talks to reporters on June 8, one day after a shooting spree ended with five deaths, including the alleged gunman.(Photo: David McNew, Getty Images)
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The gunman who is believed to have killed four people in a Santa Monica shooting rampage before being killed by police was identified by multiple media outlets Sunday as John Zawahri, whose victims included his father and brother.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Zawahri had been angered by his parents' divorce and had some mental health issues in his past. The Times cited several sources in Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C., who declined to be identified because the investigation was ongoing.

The Times said detectives believe the shooting was sparked by a family dispute. The suspect's past mental health issues occurred when he was a juvenile and are not available to the public, the Times said.

The Associated Press reported that investigators were looking at family connections to find a motive because the killer's father and brother were the first victims. AP cited an official briefed on the probe who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the case.

CNN reported that John Zawahri's attack began when he killed his father, Samir "Sam" Zawahri, 55, and brother, Chris Zawahri, 25, in a Santa Monica house before carjacking a woman and firing at a public bus on Friday.

As that house burned, the shooter opened fire on a woman driving by, wounding her, and then carjacked another woman, Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.

The carjack victim, identified by the Times as Laura Sisk, 41, of Culver City, told the Times that when the man, dressed in black and body armor and wielding an assault rifle, approached her vehicle she assumed he was with the police or Secret Service. She noted that President Obama was visiting the city that day.

"You're going to drive me to Santa Monica College and let me out," the man told her, according to the Times. "He looked like a SWAT officer," she said.

But that idea was shattered when the man fired a number of shots into a bus and into a neighborhood. At least one woman was injured, according to witnesses. As she drove, crying and shaking, the gunman reassured her, she said.

"He told me to calm down, 'You'll be all right,' " Sisk told the Times. "He said he'd let me go if I didn't do anything stupid."

He did let her go. Police had received multiple 911 calls by the time the gunman arrived at Santa Monica College, a two-year school with about 34,000 students. The gunman was enrolled at Santa Monica College in 2010, Seabrooks said.

On campus, he opened fired on a Ford Explorer, killing the driver, who crashed through a brick wall into a faculty parking lot. A female passenger was gravely wounded, Seabrooks said.

The gunman walked across campus, shooting indiscriminately. Students were seen leaping out windows of a classroom building and running for their lives. Others locked themselves behind doors or bolted out emergency exits.

Trena Johnson, who works in the dean's office, heard gunshots and looked out the window and saw a man shoot a woman in the head outside the library.

Surveillance photos showed the gunman in black strolling past a cart of books into the library with an assault-style rifle by his side.

Vincent Zhang, an economics major, was studying in the library when he heard a female scream, "No, no. Please no."

Zhang ran out of the emergency exit while others took cover in what Seabrooks called a "safe room," barricaded behind a door.

The gunman was killed by police in the school library.

The superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu school district told CNN that Zawahri attended a high school for students behind in academic credits in 2006.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragedy that so far has taken five lives and, once again, shatters our nation's confidence," Superintendent Sandra Lyon said.

Police had contact with the gunman in 2006, but because he was a juvenile then, authorities couldn't release further information, Seabrooks said.

USA TODAY

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