Daily Press Staff Writer
The gunmen arrived on a party bus.
They brought about two dozen friends and at least six guns with them, according Lt. Saul Rodriguez with the Santa Monica Police Department.
Bartenders were making their last call when the group mingled in Palisades Park near the Pier early Saturday morning.
A second party bus parked few car lengths in front of their driver had also stopped at the park before wrapping up a birthday party.
About thirty friends from Compton had enjoyed an evening on Ocean Avenue and were making a stop by the bathrooms before heading home.
The argument between the two groups started with just words but just as bars were closing and streets were filling up again at 1 a.m., shots rang out.
Dozens of bullets flew through the air.
Among her friends, DeOmmie de la Cruz ran back onto the bus. Her mom told local television stations she was helping people get to safety when the gunmen aimed at the windows, shooting the 28-year-old single mother.
It was chaos along the coast as the bus driver stepped on the gas, fleeing the barrage of bullets and heading straight to the police station.
By the time he got there, de la Cruz was fighting for her life. She later died at the hospital.
“Senseless gun violence robbed me of a daughter and my granddaughter of a mother,” de la Cruz’s mother wrote on a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral expenses.
“What started out as a fun night with friends turned into my worse nightmare.”
Two others are now home from the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds. Shrapnel hit and wounded a fourth victim.
Police say if it hadn’t been for the quick thinking of the bus driver, more people would have died.
“Definitely,” Lt. Saul Rodriguez told the Daily Press, “because the bus driver left immediately right after the shooting started. It could have been worse.”
As the bus raced away from the crime scene so did the gunmen. They left jumping over the bluffs, scurrying down the cliff toward the Pacific Coast Highway.
Overnight, detectives picked up dozens of shell casings. Investigators found two guns on the party bus of the gunmen, three on the bluffs and one in a nearby trash can.
By the time the sun came up over Palisades Park on Saturday, police had interviewed more than fifty witnesses.
But by Monday night detectives did not reveal the names of any suspects to the public, simply describing the gunmen as “2 – 3 blacks” in a press release.
As for de la Cruz, the 28-year-old gushed over her daughter on social media, sharing photos of them together decorated with digital hearts and flowers. The Gofundme website for her raised more than $4,000 in one day.
“As we are trying to prepare to memorialize her, we are also struggling with the long term financial burden in caring for her daughter and providing her a life DeOmmie would be proud of,” Tomiekia Folconer-de la Cruz wrote.
Anyone with additional information can call Detective Leone (310) 458-8949; Detective Cooper (310) 458-8478; or the Santa Monica Police Department (24 hours) at (310) 458-8495.