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Seal Beach salon shooting: Victim was an off-roading enthusiast

October 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Off-roading was Dave Caouette's passion. His favorite place to be was behind the wheel of his dark green Land Rover.

It was in that SUV where the 64-year-old grandfather lost his life Wednesday. Caouette had just pulled in to go his favorite restaurant when the Seal Beach salon gunman randomly shot him in the head.

Scott Dekraai, 41, opened fire at Salon Meritage in the 500 block of Pacific Coast Highway just before 1:30 p.m. on that day. His ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, was an employee at the salon and is said to be the intended target.

Dekraai and Fournier, who died in the shooting, were involved in a bitter custody battle over their 8-year-old son.

For Caouette's friends, the tragedy is difficult to understand. For now, they are focusing on celebrating Caouette's life and their shared loved of off-roading.

"He was just a giver, a family man, a man that led by example," said Dave Guzman, Caouette's friend. "This is a guy who would give you the shirt off his back."

In tribute, Caouette's friends have put a black stripe across the driver's side headlight of their Land Rovers. They said Caouette grew up off-roading and worked on perfecting his talents since he was a teen.

Just the day before the shooting, he met with his friends to begin setting up a ride in November. They said they'll tackle the trails in his honor, but say it will be tough knowing their team leader is gone.

"Dave was always in the front, always the leader," said Cheryl Thiele, Caouette's friend. "He was kind-hearted, giving, loyal. Always felt completely safe with Dave."

On Sunday, the condition of the sole survivor from the massacre was upgraded from stable to good.

Harriet Stretz, 73, who was having her hair styled by her daughter, survived the shooting that left eight people dead. Her daughter was among the killed.

The Grace Community Church of Seal Beach devoted part of its service to prayer and remembrance for the victims and their families. The pastor was at the crime scene the day of the shooting and spoke at a vigil the next night.

"Hopefully in our expression of emotion to each other there's a measure of comfort there," Pastor Donald Shoemaker said. "The church service today is a very emotional experience as we all share our sorrow."

There was also a morning prayer service on the beach at tower No. 8. It started with people drawing hearts in the sand, and then they placed flowers.

Mother's Tavern in Sunset Beach donated proceeds from a barbecue at two locations to the shooting victims and their families.

"I'm here because I live in Seal Beach and I feel like it's important to support your community," said Jessie Franzettie.

Some of the victims' family members were at Mother's Tavern as well.

"We're just here to try and start the healing process, be with friends and family and thank those who have been so good to us in these last difficult days," one family member said.

Pavilions in Seal beach and Vons in Los Alamitos raised more than $32,500 in donations. The stores will pitch in with $25,000 total. All funds will go toward the Seal Beach Victims' Fund that was established by the City of Seal Beach and Chamber of Commerce.

The victims were identified as Dekraai's ex-wife Fournier, Caouette, salon owner Randy Lee Fannin, Laura Lee Elody, Christy Lynn Wilson, Victoria Ann Buzzo, Michele Daschbach Fast and Lucia Bernice Kondas. Orange County prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty against Dekraai.

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.

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.

"We want to thank everyone. Just everyone, the community coming together. Thank you for supporting the fund and thank you for everyone's support it means so much to our family," said Fannin's sister-in-law.

See photos from the scene of the mass shooting.

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