PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — A shooter described by police as heavily armed and “ready for battle” fired off at least 70 rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle in the Santa Monica College Library Friday before law enforcement officials were able to gun him down, authorities said.
The shooter, who has been identified as John Zawahri, 23, was armed with 1,300 rounds of ammunition, a rifle similar to an AR15 assault rifle and an old 44-caliber handgun when he made his way down city streets in a shooting spree, killing four people and gravely injuring one on Friday. Police announced that the gravely injured victim died from her wounds on Sunday.
She was identified as Marcela Dia Franco, 26. She was in a red SUV when the suspect shot and killed her father, Carlos Franco, and injured her. She had been at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center since the shootings.
Zawahri entered the college campus and opened fire in the library, attempting to hunt down a group of people who stacked items against the door of a room and hunkered down in an attempt to protect themselves from bullets piercing the drywall around them.
“It’s miraculous that these people were not injured,” Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks told reporters Saturday during a press conference at the Public Safety Facility.
At that point, three officers, two from the Santa Monica Police Department and one from the Santa Monica College Police Department, caught up to him and engaged in a gun fight which he did not survive.
Had the gunman lived, he would have turned 24 years old on Saturday, Seabrooks said.
The entire shooting spree was over within 10 minutes.
Another person of interest who was taken into custody Friday was cleared of blame. He had gone onto the campus in a “poorly timed effort to be a good Samaritan,” she said. The man apparently wanted to rescue his girlfriend, who is a student at SMC.
Seabrooks laid out a chilling scene, describing how the suspect, dressed all in black and armed to the teeth, left a home on the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue in flames, shot one woman driving by the residence and forced another to drive him toward the SMC campus.
Firefighters found two bodies in the home, one of which has been identified as the shooter’s father, 55-year-old Samir Zawahri, a longtime resident of Santa Monica. The other was the gunman’s brother, Christopher Zawahri, 24.
As he traveled toward SMC, the suspect shot indiscriminately, striking a Big Blue Bus and one woman that police said may have been trying to intervene.
John Zawahri then shot at the SUV the Franco family was traveling in, causing it to crash near SMC.
Another woman on the SMC campus was also shot and killed. She has not be identified.
Law enforcement officials displayed a black duffle bag, rounds of ammunition, ballistic body armor and an extra receiver for a 223 rifle. Police are not releasing information about the ownership or origin of the weapons. The rifle used in the shooting has been sent to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office for analysis.
They also showed photographs of the shooter entering the library, and of multiple magazines of ammunition surrounded by splashes of blood.
Seabrooks added that SMPD officers had an encounter with the shooter in 2006, but could not elaborate because he was a minor at the time. He was enrolled at SMC as recently as 2010, police said.
She did say that the murders appeared to be premeditated.
“Any time someone puts on a vest, of some sort, comes out with a bag full of loaded magazines, has an extra receiver, has a handgun and has a semi-automatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people and has to be neutralized at the hands of the police, I would say that that’s premeditated,” Seabrooks said.
The Main Campus will be open for business as of 7 a.m. Monday, Vasquez said, and finals being given on the Main Campus, which were disrupted by the shootings, will take place at that time.
For staff, faculty and students that need help or support in the wake of the incident, counselors will be available on the Bundy Campus between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday, and potentially all month long on the Main Campus.
People may also call a 24-hour Crisis Care Support Line at (866) 315-7370.
Lines have not been too busy said Bill S., one of the 23 counselors available, but anyone that calls in will receive support and help getting a “more substantial follow up” to the phone call.
“There’s limits to what you can provide on the phone,” he said.
Community members who live in the Pico Neighborhood, where the shootings took place, are also struggling to make sense of the violence that broke out so near their homes on Friday.
Oscar de la Torre, a school board member, lives 200 feet away from the house in which the bodies were found and could see the flames engulf the building from his bedroom window.
“The whole community is traumatized,” de la Torre said. “People witnessed the shooter.”
At the same time, de la Torre was proud of the way his neighbors reacted, immediately calling law enforcement officials, providing the license plate number of the stolen car and tending to the wounded.
Residents are currently trying to arrange some kind of block party or other community event to heal some of those wounds.
Still, de la Torre struggles with how to explain the events to his young son, who was with him and his wife when they returned home not long after the shooter had continued his rampage.
“It’s disturbing,” de la Torre said.
Any other victims or witnesses are encouraged to call SMPD detectives at (310) 458-8449. If they wish to report information anonymously, call WE Tip at 1-800-78-CRIME (1-800-78-27643), or submit the tip online at www.wetip.com. Alternatively, tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers by either calling (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or by visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org.
Daniel Archuleta contributed to this report.