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Santa Monica shooting suspect's mom releases statement

June 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The mother of the alleged gunman in the Santa Monica shooting rampage released a statement Monday, expressing "great sadness" for the victims' families.

"As may be assumed, I am in mourning for my family and for those who were also affected by this horrific tragedy over the past few days. I cannot express my great sadness for the families who are also suffering at this terrible time," said Randa Abdou. "I do ask the media please give me time to grieve and to come to grips with the overwhelming sorrow that has befallen all of us. Thank you."

The shooting spree began just before noon Friday in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenues, was carried out in various Santa Monica locations and ended on the Santa Monica College campus. The alleged gunman, 23-year-old John Zawahri, was armed with 1,300 rounds and was carrying a .223 semi-automatic rifle and a .44-caliber revolver. After killing his father and brother, police say he killed three more people before police killed the suspect.

Among the five victims was Carlos Franco, who had worked as a groundskeeper for SMC for 22 years. He and his 26-year-old daughter Marcela were shot and killed. Carlos Franco called his other daughter Letty moments before he was shot.

"He called Letty, and he says, 'I'm running a little late, but I want you to know I still love you," said relative Margaret Quinones-Perez. "He doesn't do that, and then we never heard from him again."

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.

"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 Quinones-Perez.

Margarita Gomez, 68, was shot and killed outside the Santa Monica College library. Gomez's family says she was collecting cans and bottles for members of her church.

The motive behind the shooting remains under investigation. The mother of the shooting suspect has returned to Southern California from the Middle East. Investigators are questioning her. Police say John Zawahri shot and killed his father, 55-year-old Samir Zawahri, and his brother, 25-year-old Christopher Zawahri, in a back bedroom, and then set the house on fire.

Court documents show a history of violence in the Zawahri family. According to court records, Zawahri's father asked for a divorce back in 1993. His mother was working on divorce papers in 1998 and that same year, she asked for a restraining order against her husband.

In court papers, she called him "verbally abusive and controlling." She said her husband threatened to take their two young sons away to Canada and once punched her and stole her jewelry and purse.

She said "that he would do anything to make my life miserable and that he could kill me and no restraining order can stop him."

Former classmates of the suspect say he made violent threats while in high school. They said he was a quiet kid and was a "loner."

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.

Police say there was an incident with Zawahri seven years ago, but because he was a juvenile at the time, authorities will not comment on any details.

Santa Monica College reopens with increased security

Students at Santa Monica College returned to classes Monday for the first time since Friday's deadly shooting rampage. The campus was dotted with bouquets of flowers, as well as armed officers patrolling the area.

"It makes me feel like the campus is safer right now because there is so much security and a lot of police on campus," said student Joel Rosa.

The campus reopened for finals with increased police presence, but the library, where so many students ducked for cover, will remain closed. Police said the gunman fired at least 70 rounds inside the library.

"It's very unsettling. I really don't want to be here. The only reason why I am here is because I graduate tomorrow, and I have to finish my finals today," said student Ron Williams.

Williams says he was outside of the library when he heard gunfire, while student Julio Aguilar said he left the library minutes before the gunman came in.

"The whole weekend I was thinking about it, I was like I feel like I cheated death," Aguilar said.

A vigil was held on the campus of Santa Monica College at 6 p.m. It was open to the public.

Campus police said graduation will go on as originally scheduled Tuesday afternoon, with added security.


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