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Santa Monica shooting suspect made prior threats, classmate says

Police released a photo of the suspect gunman in the Santa Monica shooting rampage on Sunday, June 9, 2013. He has been identified as 23-year-old John Zawahri.
June 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The gunman in the Santa Monica shooting rampage threatened to hurt students at his former high school, a former classmate said.

John Zawahri's former classmates say they noticed signs of trouble but never thought it would lead to a violent and deadly rampage through Santa Monica.

Sources, including a former classmate who wished to remain anonymous, says there was an incident in 2006 involving threats to hurt specific students at Olympic High School. A search of his home at the time did not turn up any guns or explosives.

"He started talking to me and my friend about basically doing violent things. He would ask us to fight him so he could feel what it felt like to get into a fight, he could feel the hits. He showed us the ski masks and the crow bar that he was going to use to steal the M-16 in the cop car," the former classmate said.

On Sunday, police released a photo of the suspected gunman in the Santa Monica shooting rampage that left five people dead Friday.

Authorities say John Zawahri, 23, fatally shot his father, 55-year-old Samir Zawahri, and his 25-year-old brother, Christopher Zawahri. The two victims were found inside their burning home Friday.

A third victim identified as 26-year-old Marcela Franco died at a hospital on Sunday. Her father, a longtime Santa Monica College groundskeeper, also died during Friday's tragedy.

The fifth victim was believed to be a woman, her name has not been disclosed.

Timeline of events

The deadly rampage began minutes before noon Friday when police were called to a shooting in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue. Officers found a house on fire and later discovered the bodies of the suspect's father and brother, inside the burning house.

The shooting spree, which lasted about 10 minutes, was carried out in various Santa Monica locations. Police say the suspect shot and wounded a woman driving by, then carjacked a woman at gunpoint and forced her to drive to the Santa Monica College campus. She escaped uninjured.

The shooting spree continued as the gunman fired his weapon several times in the areas of 20th Street and Pico Boulevard, Cloverfield and Pico boulevards and 19th and Pearl streets.

Along the way, he allegedly fired at a city bus traveling down Cloverfield Boulevard near Pico Boulevard, resulting in minor injuries to three people. Then, the gunman allegedly fired at Franco's SUV.

Carlos Franco, 68, was taking his daughter to the college bookstore to buy textbooks for her summer classes when they were struck by gunfire. After shots were fired, their red SUV crashed into a parking-lot wall on campus.

A woman in her 50s was shot and killed outside the Santa Monica College library. Police said the woman was not an SMC student and was in her 50s. The suspect attempted to shoot more people inside the library.

Investigators say that once he arrived on campus, the suspect exchanged gunfire with officers several times. He made his way to the library and took aim at students. Police said the suspect fired at least 70 rounds inside the library.

According to Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks with Santa Monica police, when the students inside the library saw the gunman approaching, they ran to a room she called a "safe room." Seabrooks said the students piled objects found in that room up against the door to keep the suspect from entering. She said they "hunkered down" and ducked while bullets pierced through the walls. None of the students were injured.

Zawahri was shot and killed by police officers at the library.

The motive behind the shooting remains under investigation. A total of five people were killed, including two in that Yorkshire Avenue house fire.

Details surface about suspected gunman, John Zawahri

Chief Seabrooks said Saturday would have been Zawahri's birthday. A neighbor described the suspect as an unemployed man who lived with his mother in Mar Vista.

"My heart breaks for her, because I knew the kid wasn't right. You know how you can just sense there's something not quite right about somebody? Something not quite right," said neighbor Beverly Meadows, who added that the suspect had recently shaved his head, grew a beard and was possibly planning to move overseas to live with other family members.

Seabrooks also said the suspect was enrolled at Santa Monica College as early as 2010 and that police had contact with him in 2006 when he was a juvenile.

Suspect's weapons, ammunition

Santa Monica police say the suspect in the shooting rampage was "heavily armed and ready for battle" when he stepped onto the Santa Monica College campus.

Officials say the suspect was armed with a weapon similar to an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

According to police, Zawahri dropped a duffle bag while walking through campus. Some of the bag's contents included an upper receiver to a .223-caliber rifle, an older model .44-caliber handgun and at least 20 loaded magazines. The suspect was also wearing protective knee pads and a utility vest that was not bullet resistant.

Police say the killings were pre-meditated and that Zawahri had the capability of firing 1,300 rounds of ammunition.

Santa Monica College to resume operations

Santa Monica College's police Chief Albert Vasquez says student safety is their top concern.

"We will have an increased presence of law enforcement personnel in uniform on and around the campus," Vasquez said.

The college is expected to reopen Monday at 7 a.m. for final exams, which were delayed Friday.

Many students returned to the campus Saturday to retrieve their cars and other personal property from all campus buildings, except the library. Students were allowed on campus until 6 p.m. Saturday and will be allowed back from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday to pick up their property. It was unclear when the library would reopen.

A vigil was scheduled to be held Monday in front of the Santa Monica College library Monday at 6 p.m. The public is welcome. Organizers urge those who attend to bring a candle. Santa Monica College will also hold a memorial honoring the victims during a graduation ceremony Tuesday.

Carlos Franco memorial fund, blood donations set up

The surviving family members of Marcela and Carlos Franco, shot by the gunman at Santa Monica College, held a news conference outside the family's home Sunday.

"Marcela and Carlos, they were very close, they loved each other, she was daddy's girl. So the blessing is that they went together - they loved each other very much," said Margaret Quinones Perez during the conference.

A memorial fund for Carlos Franco has been set up by Santa Monica College. Donations can be made online. They can also be mailed to:

The Santa Monica College Foundation
1900 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405

UCLA Medical Center is also seeking blood donations. The hospital is encouraging people with type-O negative, type-O positive and type-AB blood to donate.


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