SANTA MONICA — The mother of a gunman who fatally shot five people in Santa Monica once said the shooter’s father had threatened to kill her at least twice during years of turmoil in the family, according to court records obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
“’If I had a gun it would be over,’” Randa Abdou quoted her husband in a 1998 document seeking a temporary restraining order.
The mother of John Zawahri also said her husband had threatened to take their two young sons to Canada after the couple separated, and that he once punched her and stole her jewelry, purse and unfiled divorce papers.
Authorities said the gunman, John Zawahri, 23, shot his 55-year-old father, Samir Zawahri, and his 25-year-old brother, Christopher Zawahri, on Friday, leaving their home in flames before shooting at strangers in cars and on the Santa Monica College campus during a rampage.
The former student at the school was heavily armed and carried a duffel bag with 1,300 rounds of ammunition when officers killed him in the campus library.
Randa Abdou cut short a visit with family in Lebanon to return to Los Angeles on Sunday and had spoken with investigators who hoped she could provide clues to what sparked the violence.
Neighbor Beverly Meadows said she spoke with Abdou on the phone on Monday and was told Abdou was in mourning and concerned about those who were hurt.
“She is very, very fragile right now, and at this point in time, everybody else is gone,” Meadows said.
As of Monday, Abdou has not spoken to the media.
“Please respect the fact that this woman is devastated,” Meadows said. “She is absolutely overwhelmed and she doesn’t know how to process it. She sounds like she’s done nothing but cry. … She still feels like maybe she should have done something.”
Santa Monica College reopened on Monday for final exams and for students to recover backpacks, cars and other items left behind when they fled the violence. Extra security and counselors were on hand but the library — where Zawahri was shot by police — remained closed.
Zawahri enrolled at Santa Monica College in winter 2009 and last attended in fall 2010, sporadically taking classes in the entertainment technology program, which involves game design, animation and computer skills for digital media, the college said.
A statement said the college had no disciplinary issues with Zawahri.
Zawahri killed his father and brother at a home near the campus then opened fire on strangers as he made his way to the college, where police fatally shot him in the library.
Investigators were still trying to determine what prompted the attack and if it might have involved some type of mental illness.
Zawahri’s parents married in 1985, and his father brought his family to the neighborhood of small homes and apartment buildings tucked up against Interstate 10 in the mid-1990s, according to property records.
When Zawahri was 9, his now-separated mother sought the restraining order.
In the 1998 document, Abdou said she left Lebanon and joined her husband in the U.S. five years after their wedding, and the couple “have had marital troubles ever since.”
Her estranged husband had been “verbally abusive and controlling,” she stated, adding that she was afraid he might do something “drastic because he seems to become increasingly angry and frustrated over our separation.”
Abdou said her husband has “followed me, struck me, taken the children without telling me, and entered my apartment without my permission and removed photographs.”
He once came to the apartment and told her that he was going to take the children to Canada, she said.
“The defendant said that he would do anything to make my life miserable and that he could kill me and no restraining order can stop him,” she said.
Her husband waited for her at work once, and when she pulled up in a car with a friend, he struck her in the arm, pulled her hair, took gold bracelets, her purse and unfiled divorce papers, she said.
She was afraid to press charges, she added, because he scared her and she didn’t want to enrage him further. “The defendant has told me that life means nothing to him if we are not together,” she said.
Abdou asked the court to order the return of her property, including her green card, and to grant her custody of the couple’s two sons pending a court hearing.
However, her request for a restraining order was dismissed when she missed the hearing.
She wrote that she was afraid to notify him of the restraining order, saying “I do not know how he would react to the notice.”
Court records indicated that Samir Zawahri filed for divorce in 1993, but it was never finalized.
Five years later, when Abdou filed court papers for the restraining order, she noted that no divorce was pending, but she indicated that she had been in the process of filling out divorce papers. It’s unclear if the couple ever divorced.
Public records show that Abdou had sold her portion of the family home to Samir Zawahri in 2002. The sale was finalized the following year.
Thomas O’Rourke, a neighbor of Samir Zawahri, said the couple did divorce, with one son living with each parent.