SANTA MONICA — Six people were killed Friday in a rolling wave of violence that began with a shooting and fire in a Santa Monica neighborhood, then continued with a gunman firing randomly at people and vehicles on Pico Boulevard and then on the campus of Santa Monica College, where the suspect was killed by police.
The violent events unfolded around midday about three miles south of a political fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama.
According to police, the crime spree began around 11:50 a.m. with reports of shots fired and a house ablaze near Yorkshire and Kansas avenues.
Fire crews doused the fire and then found “multiple” victims inside the home, according to Santa Monica Fire Chief Scott Ferguson.
Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said at least two people were found dead at the scene.
According to witnesses, the gunman, clad in black and carrying a semiautomatic weapon, stood on Yorkshire Avenue and shot at a woman who was driving by.
“He waved her to go through and she kind of slowed down, and when she hesitated and slowed down, he just fired three or four shots point blank into her car,” resident Jerri Cunningham told ABC7.
The man apparently carjacked another vehicle and ended up at Cloverfield and Pico boulevards, where he began firing randomly at people and vehicles, including a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, which wound up about mile north riddled with bullets.
Seabrooks said the gunman continued firing wildly, killing another person near Cloverfield and Pico and two people near 19th and Pearl streets before scrambling onto the Santa Monica College campus, where a barrage of gunfire erupted between the suspect and police.
The gunman fled into the campus library, where he continued firing and was eventually gunned down by police, Seabrooks said.
Three shooting victims, all female, were taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, two in critical condition and one in serious condition, according to UCLA health officials. One of the critical patients — who was shot in the stomach — was dead by mid-afternoon. The other was shot in the head, officials said.
Three other victims, also female, were taken to UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica in good condition.
Campus worker Joe Orcutt told reporters said the suspect fired a shot at him.
“He fired two [shots] in the parking lot area and then when I turned around he shot at me, I was the third,” Orcutt said. “And I heard probably another three, four individual shots until maybe three or four minutes later, and just a barrage of fire, which I’m assuming was the police firing at the library.”
The college and surrounding schools were placed on lockdown while police combed through the campus to ensure there were no other suspects at large. Another person, described by Seabrooks as a person of interest, was taken into custody.
College students were taking final exams on the campus, but in the wake of the shooting, all the exams for the balance of the day were canceled.
One student told KCAL9 the suspect was waving an assault weapon and looked to be prepared for combat.
“He had a helmet on, like the Army wears,” the witness said. “He had a bulletproof vest with a jacket over it. He had jeans … and Army boots on.”
The body of the gunman was removed from the library and could be seen on aerial television photos on the ground near the southern end of campus.
Neighboring Will Rogers Elementary School and John Adams Middle School were also locked down during the investigation, as was Santa Monica High School.
Graduation ceremonies at Santa Monica High School were expected to go on as scheduled Friday night.
Some college students and campus workers — with their hands in the air — were escorted off campus by police, and some of them were taken past the gunman’s body.
The shooting occurred just miles from the scene of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama in northern Santa Monica. The shooting did not impact the actual event, according to the U.S. Secret Service, but it did alter the president’s route back to Los Angeles International Airport.
The president was originally expected to be driven back to Santa Monica Airport for a helicopter flight to LAX. Instead, the president was driven in a motorcade directly from the fundraiser to LAX.
A college student told ABC7 he heard the gunfire.
“I was near the bookstore when I heard 15 or 20 more shots,” he said. “I stopped and went into the Theater Arts building. … I’m extremely shaken.”
Another student said she heard gunshots while she was heading to the library to study for her final exams, which were being administered on the campus this week.
“I ran to my car as quick as I could,” she told Channel 7. “I didn’t know what to do.”