Police have confirmed that five people, including the gunman, were killed Friday in a series of incidents around the Santa Monica, California area. Two people killed in a related fire are said to be the assailant’s relatives.
Investigators said the gunman acted alone. Identified only as a white man in his late 20s, the suspect wore body armor and a helmet, and carried a semiautomatic rifle, shotgun and ammunition belt. He also wore a black sweatshirt that read “Life is a gamble” on the back.
It was initially thought the gunman may have had an accomplice, and a second man described a “person of interest” was detained. The second man was later released, with police saying he is not suspect.
The violence appears to have begun at approximately noon local time, when the gunman tried breaking into a home in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue near Santa Monica College, according to the Los Angeles Times. Two people were found fatally shot in the home, which was then set on fire.
The first two victims were the shooter’s brother and father, police told the Associated Press. Police have revised the total number of victims to five down from a previously announced seven.
He then moved west along Pico Boulevard, firing indiscriminately at cars, buses, and a police vehicle. Two pedestrians were killed at 19th Street and at least two more were hospitalized.
Witnesses said the man then went to the corner and pointed what looked like a military weapon at three women in a car, ordering her to pull over. Jerry Cunningham Rathner, who lives nearby and saw what happened, told the Associated Press the shooter fired “three to four shots into the car” before aiming at other vehicles.
As police surrounded the area the man made his way into the school library. Students hid with faculty in classrooms and turned off the lights. Stephen Bell, on campus preparing for a final exam, said two women ran into his class to warn him of the danger.
“When she said that word – shot! – we immediately shut the door, laid down on the floor and shut the lights,” Bell told the LA Times. “I was thinking ‘Oh my God, Columbine High School.’ First thing that crossed my mind.”
Others said streaks of blood were visible on the library walls, where they heard several handgun shots followed by a volley of handgun fire. The shooter was then killed by police.