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Seal Beach salon shooting: Community mourns victims

October 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
People in the tight-knit community of Seal Beach are still struggling to cope with Wednesday's tragic salon massacre that killed eight people and injured one.

Community members continued to stop by the huge memorial that's growing outside of Salon Meritage. Many simply stopped by to read the cards and signs posted to the victims and their families.

Scott Dekraai, 41, opened fire at Salon Meritage in the 500 block of Pacific Coast Highway just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. His ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, was an employee at the salon and is said to be the intended target. Fournier, who died in the shooting, and Dekraai were involved in a bitter custody battle over their 8-year-old son.

Witnesses said when Dekraai opened fire he aimed to kill, shooting people in the head and chest. People ran from the gunfire, locking themselves in back rooms and some even attempting to play dead. Dekraai then walked out of the salon, shot a man sitting in a car in the parking lot, and took off in his white pick-up truck. He was later arrested by police about a half-mile from the scene.

Days later, the community of Seal Beach was still trying to understand how the tragedy unfolded in their community.

"I've been here for two days ... I'm born and raised here. I just saw it happening. I protected a lady and her baby, but I seen the one gentleman get shot," said Dirk Downing, who witnessed the shooting.

The memorial outside the salon grew since then, with people bringing flowers, cards, candles, and mementos for the victims and their families.

"It's overwhelming, but it's something to be expected by the city of Seal Beach because we're such a small, tight, little community," said Seal Beach resident Gregory Gates.

On Friday, Dekraai was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. During his brief court appearance, he was met with angry shouts from friends and family members of the victims. One person shouted, "I hate you."

Superior Court Judge Erick L. Larsh ordered a medical review and postponed Dekraai's arraignment until Nov. 29.

At a news conference Friday morning, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas vowed to seek the death penalty against Dekraai, calling his actions cruel, merciless and methodical. He said Dekraai had stopped to reload his weapon before continuing to gun people down.

"He was not satisfied with murdering his intended target, his ex-wife," he said. "For almost two minutes, Dekraai shot victim after victim, executing people by shooting them in the head and chest."

Rackauckas said the reason for the rampage was revenge over a custody dispute concerning Dekraai's son. The district attorney also said that Dekraai "callously snuffed them out like they were collateral damage." He added that Dekraai's murder spree did not have anything to do with loving his son.

"That little boy's a victim," said Rackauckas, pausing to compose himself. "His mother has been murdered and he has to grow up knowing that his dad is a mass murderer. So what kind of sick, twisted fatherly love might that be?"

On the day of the shooting, responding officers found nine people shot at the salon -- eight inside and one man shot in the parking lot, who was sitting in his vehicle.

Six victims were declared dead at the scene. Three people were transported to the hospital in critical condition; two of which died later that day. The surviving victim remained at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where she was listed in fair condition Friday.

On Thursday night, Seal Beach police identified the eight victims as Dekraai's ex-wife Michelle Marie Fournier, salon owner Randy Lee Fannin, Laura Lee Elody, David Caouette, Christy Lynn Wilson, Victoria Ann Buzzo, Michele Daschbach Fast and Lucia Bernice Kondas.

The wounded person, 73-year-old Harriet Stretz, was having her hair done by her daughter, Elody, who was killed.

The crime, the worst in Seal Beach's 96-year history, has shaken the seaside city of 24,000 that many residents call Mayberry by the Sea. Until this week, it had only one homicide in four years. The crime reported most often last year was larceny.

How to help

The Fannin family established a memorial fund to benefit all the families of those killed in the shooting. Supporters can donate online at www.salonmeritagefund.org.

On Sunday, a Balance Tai Qi Qong class will be held as a memorial and fundraiser for the families. The class will take place at 8:30 a.m. on the beach of Seal Beach near Lifeguard Station 8.

Supermarket chain Vons announced Friday customer donations will be collected at the Seal Beach Pavilions at 1101 Pacific Coast Highway on Saturday and Sunday to assist the families of the eight Seal Beach residents that lost their lives in Wednesday's shooting. Vons in Los Alamitos is also collecting donations. Vons pledged to match customer donations up to $25,000. All funds will go toward the "Seal Beach Victims' Fund," which was established by the City of Seal Beach and Chamber of Commerce.

Seal Beach, the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce and Watson & Associates announced the establishment of the "Seal Beach Victims' Fund" account at the Bank of America at 208 Main Street, Seal Beach. Donations may be mailed or delivered to the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce or the Bank of America with checks made payable to the "Seal Beach Victims' Fund." Credit cards will also be accepted. Additionally, those wishing to host a fundraiser, special event or related activity are encouraged to do so in coordination with the Chamber of Commerce, which is functioning as a clearinghouse for all such events.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) said making a donation is a small way the community can show its compassionate.

"We can make sure that the agony and the suffering of these people who have lost their families, their children, that they know we're with them," said Rohrabacher, who was visibly choked up.

As of 10 p.m. Saturday, more than $12,700 had been collected at the Seal Beach Pavilions and Los Alamitos Vons.

See photos from the scene of the mass shooting.

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