John Zawahri – the gunman accused of going on a shooting spree in Santa Monica Friday that left four people dead, among them his father and brother – was upset over his parents’ recent divorce and had a history of mental illness, it was revealed today.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said Saturday that the alleged shooter, identified as John Zawahri by multiple law enforcement sources, planned the attack and was capable of firing 1,300 rounds of ammunition.
“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,” she told reporters at a press conference.
John Zawahri would have turned 24 on Saturday.
Police had an encounter with him seven years ago, but they wouldn’t elaborate because he was a juvenile at the time.
Santa Monica college gunman John Zawahri went on shooting rampage killing four because he was angry at parents divorce
A law enforcement source has revealed to the Los Angeles Times that John Zawahri had suffered from mental problems in his youth.
As they work to untangle the circumstances surrounding the deadly rampage, police are trying to determine why the suspect wanted to be driven to Santa Monica College, where he was ultimately shot dead by police.
Laura Sisk, 41, who was carjacked by John Zawahri, told the Los Angeles Times that the man specifically asked her to be taken to the college and then let out. At this point in the investigation, authorities do not believe that the education institution was the target in the attack.
However, Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the gunman was enrolled in the college, possibly along with a family member, as recently as 2010.
At a police press conference this afternoon, investigators put on display weapons and ammo recovered from Santa Monica College where the killings ended Friday when police gunned him down in the library, where students were studying for finals.
Among items presented to the press were surveillance photos of a man in black entering the library with an assault-style rifle by his side.
Surveillance footage shows Santa Monica College shooter John Zawahri, entering the campus library, clearly carrying a large firearm.
He killed four people including his own father and brother.
While John Zawahri fired through the wall, students in the school’s library were able to survive the rampage by stacking items against the door and squatting to the floor.
Carlos Navarro Franco has been identified among the dead. His daughter Marcela, 25, was taken to UCLA Medical Center after her father was fatally wounded and crashed the car he was driving into a wall. She is on life support and in “grim condition”, according to Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline A. Seabrooks who would not confirm the names of any other victims at a 4 p.m. press conference.
John Zawahri, 24, armed with an AR-15, a handgun, and 1,300 rounds of ammunition began the deadly spree by killing his father and brother and setting fire to their Southern California home.
Dressed all in black and carrying a semi-automatic rifle, John Zawahri walked through the Santa Monica College campus – where he was enrolled as a student “as recently as 2010”, according to police – after killing his father, brother and another person, authorities said.
When he entered the library, students were able to run to a “safe room”, where they stacked items against the door and “hunkered down” to avoid the shots that John Zawahri fired at them through a wall.
He would kill a woman outside the library moments later, before dying from police gunfire.
A neighbor described the victim as unemployed, 22, man who lived in the Mar Vista area with his mother.
Sources tell CNN that John Zawahri was hospitalized for mental illness in recent years after allegedly talking about harming others.
It remains unclear if he admitted himself or if he was involuntary placed in the hospital. Also unclear are the exact circumstances of his treatment and the circumstances of his release.
Officials do not believe John Zawahri had any terrorist affiliations, domestic or international.
Jacqueline A. Seabrooks did confirm that John Zawahri had a 2006 run-in with the law but was unable to specify its exact nature, as he was a minor at the time.
Surveillance footage shows Santa Monica College shooter John Zawahri, entering the campus library, clearly carrying a large firearm
Trena Johnson, a longtime administrative assistant working in the dean’s office, looked out the window around noon Friday and saw a man with a “very large gun”.
“We saw a woman get shot in the head,” said Trena Johnson.
“I haven’t been able to stop shaking.”
The violence, which lasted just about 20 minutes, started about mile away when John Zawahri opened fire in front of a house he’d set ablaze.
Two officials said the killings began as a domestic violence incident and the victims in the home were the gunman’s father and brother. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
As the house burst into flames, John Zawahri carjacked a woman at gunpoint and directed her to drive to the college campus, having her stop so he could shoot along the way, police said.
He wounded one woman in a car who was in critical condition late Friday. He fired on a city bus where three women were left with minor injuries. One had shrapnel-type injuries and the two others had injuries not related to gunfire. They were treated at a hospital and released.
The gunman also fired on police cars, bystanders and pedestrians, police said.
From there, the chaos shifted to Santa Monica College, a two-year college with about 34,000 students located among homes and strip malls more than a mile inland from the city’s famous pier, promenade and expansive, sandy beaches.
In a faculty parking lot on the edge of campus, he fired on two people in a red Ford Explorer that crashed through a block wall. The driver was killed, police said, and a passenger was in critical condition after undergoing surgery UCLA Medical Center, doctors said.
College employee Joe Orcutt was in the lot and said he saw the gunman, looking calm and composed.
“He’s just standing there, like he’s modeling for some ammo magazine,” Joe Orcutt said, “seeing who he could shoot, one bullet at a time, like target practice.”
The gunman walked on to campus and shot the woman in front of the library, who appeared to be in her 50s and carried a bag of recyclables, police spokesman Richard Lewis said. She died at the hospital about three hours later.
The gunman went inside the library and kept shooting but apparently hit no one, Jacqueline A. Seabrooks said.
Dozens of students, who had been studying for final exams, ran for the exits.
“I was totally scared to death and I can’t believe it happened so fast,” said Vincent Zhang, a 20-year-old economics major.
Officers entered the library and shot the gunman moments later, Jacqueline A. Seabrooks said. He was carried to a sidewalk, where he was declared dead. His body remained there many hours later as coroner’s investigators examined the scene. His name and the names of his victims’ were being withheld while the coroner’s office notified relatives.
Nine crime scenes were under investigation by officers from 11 different law enforcement agencies, said Richard Lewis.
On the gunman they found a canvas bag that included a rifle, a handgun and magazines of ammunition, Richard Lewis said. A small cache of ammunition found in the house that had burned.
Police had said earlier that seven people were killed, including the gunman, but they revised the death toll to five at a news conference late Friday. Richard Lewis said there were conflicting descriptions of some victims and they were counted twice.
At a press conference Friday night, Sgt. Richard Lewis said that the gunman acted alone, and investigators have released a man who had been detained as a “person of interest”.