In a rolling wave of violence, two people were found dead in a Santa Monica house fire today, and a short time later, a gunman opened fire on vehicles nearby before shots rang out on the Santa Monica College campus, where at least four people were injured.
As many as six people have died in today’s shooting plus the suspect who was shot and killed by SMC police, according to Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.
A search was continuing to determine if any other shooters were involved, and it was still unconfirmed if the fire and campus shootings were related.
Authorities were still piecing together the chain of events, which apparently began before noon with the sound of gunfire and subsequent fire in a home on Yorkshire and Kansas avenues, just northeast of the SMC campus and about three miles south of a political fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama.
A witness told KCAL9 he heard as many as six gunshots at the house just before the fire broke out. Santa Monica Fire Department and police officials later said two men were found dead in the home.
According to various witness reports, a gunman opened fire a short time later at a Big Blue Bus and vehicles nearby, possibly near Pico and Cloverfield boulevards. A passenger-side window was shot out of at least one car, but the occupants were uninjured.
Around noon, a barrage of gunfire broke out at Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd., where students were in the midst of final exams.
A witness told City News Service two shots were initially heard, followed by dozens more, prompting students to scatter and police to swarm onto the campus. The search quickly focused on the campus library, where some of the shooting occurred.
Another witness later told CNS that what appeared to be a dead body – a man dressed in black — was on the ground near the south side of campus.
One student told KCAL9 the suspect was holding an assault weapon.
“He had a helmet on, like the Army wears,” the witness said. “… He had a bulletproof vest with a jacket over it. He had jeans … and Army boots on.”
Three shooting victims, all female, were taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, two in critical condition and one in serious condition, according to UCLA health officials. A fourth victim, also female, was taken to UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica in good condition.
Campus worker Joe Orcutt told reporters said the suspect fired a shot at him.
“He fired two (shots) in the parking lot area and then when I turned around he shot at me, I was the third,” Orcutt said. “And I heard probably another three, four individual shots until maybe three or four minutes later, and just a barrage of fire, which I’m assuming was the police firing at the library.”
The campus was placed on lockdown and finals were canceled for the remainder of the day. Neighboring Will Rogers Elementary School and John Adams Middle School were also locked down, as was Santa Monica High School.
Some SMC students and campus — with their hands in the air – were escorted off campus by police.
California Highway Patrol Officer Vince Ramirez told CNS that a 911 call was received at 11:55 a.m. about a man with one or more guns firing south of the college. Ramirez said one person had been taken into custody, but police were continuing to search the campus to determine if anyone else was involved.
Initial reports indicated that a suspect was “down.”
The shooting occurred just miles from the scene of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama in northern Santa Monica. The shooting did not impact the actual event, according to the U.S. Secret Service, but it did alter the president’s route back to Los Angeles International Airport.
The president was originally expected to be driven back to Santa Monica Airport for a helicopter flight to LAX. Instead, the president was driven in a motorcade directly from the fundraiser to LAX.
An SMC student told ABC7 he heard the gunfire.
“I was near the bookstore when I heard 15 or 20 more shots,” he said.
“I stopped and went into the Theater Arts building. … I’m extremely shaken.”
Another student said she heard gunshots while she was heading to the library to study for her final exams, which were being administered on the campus this week.
“I ran to my car as quick as I could,” she told Channel 7. “I didn’t know what to do.”