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Santa Monica shooting victim was collecting cans for church - family

June 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The family of a woman shot and killed while collecting cans on the Santa Monica College campus is speaking out.

Maragarita Gomez, 68, led a simple life. She lived alone in Santa Monica, and family members say when she wasn't at her church, Saint Anne Catholic Church & Shrine, she was collecting recyclable cans and bottles.

"She would mainly give it to people from her church. She cared about her church so much and all her church friends and the ladies there. That's the main thing that she would really talk about," said Gomez's granddaughter, Janette Torres.

Gomez was picking up cans last Friday in an alley near the campus library when she came face to face with gunman John Zawahri, 23. Her life ended with a burst of gunfire from his assault rifle.

Zawahri's shooting spree began just before noon in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenues, was carried out in various Santa Monica locations and ended on the college campus. After killing his father and brother, police say Zawahri killed three more people before police killed him.

"We're devastated. It's a shock. We're still in shock. We can't believe it," said Gomez's daughter-in-law, Anna Torres. "We knew that she lived across the street from the college and so we put two and two together."

Anna Torres' husband, Gabriel, was too broken up to talk on camera about his mother. The family spent part of their Monday morning at the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, identifying Gomez's body.

Family members say collecting cans was Gomez's way of exercising because she would go for a walk. They say she would only collect cans Monday through Thursday, so they can't figure out why she headed out on Friday.

"She would go in the morning, but when she would go in the morning, it'd be very early or in the afternoon, but it'd be more of the evening. And Friday, she just decided to go and we don't even know for what reason," said Janette Torres.

Family members said Gomez's walks on campus were so common that students and faculty often waved at her.


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