Santa Monica shooting rampage: Suspect identified as John Zawahri


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.

Police reveal new evidence, surveillance

At a Saturday afternoon news conference, police laid out tables of evidence. 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.

Sgt. Richard Lewis with Santa Monica police broke down the series of events in a short timeline:

  • 11:52 p.m. PT -- Santa Monica police received shots fired call from the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue.
  • 12:02 p.m. PT -- Santa Monica police received shots fired call from Cloverfield Boulevards and Pearl Street.
  • 1:05 p.m. PT -- The suspected shooter was shot, killed by police on the Santa Monica College campus.

Police also released more details about the suspect, saying he had ties to the Yorkshire Avenue home as well as a home in Palms. Police also said the suspect and a family member had ties to Santa Monica College as students in 2010. Zawahri was contacted by police in 2006, though details about that interaction was not released since the suspect was a juvenile at the time.

Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks with Santa Monica police said that Saturday would have been the suspect'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.

Alleged Santa Monica gunman went on 10-minute shooting spree

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 two males, believed to be the suspect's father and brother, inside the burning house.

Santa Monica Fire Chief Scott Ferguson said the fire was mostly in the front of the house, and the bodies were found in a room in the back of the house. Ferguson said it doesn't appear that an accelerant was used.

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. He also allegedly fired at two people inside a red SUV, killing Santa Monica College employee Carlos Franco, 68. Records show Franco was a longtime groundskeeper at the school. His daughter, Marcela Franco, who is in her 20s, was gravely wounded. A family member told Eyewitness News that Marcela is currently on life support at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

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

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

The motive behind the shooting remains under investigation.

Students return to campus to claim property

Many 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.

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

The school is offering counseling services at its Bundy Campus 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Counseling on the main campus will be available Monday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The school plans to hold a community support gathering at the Bundy campus Sunday.

Carlos Franco memorial fund, blood donations set up

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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