From The Associated Press
SANTA MONICA, Calif. —
Two people were found dead Friday in a burned home near Santa Monica College, where someone sprayed a street corner with gunfire, wounding at least four people, authorities said.
Police and witnesses said the gunfire began adjacent to the campus and about 3 miles from where President Barack Obama was attending a fundraising luncheon, just before noon.
They said a shooter was in custody and the campus was being searched after unconfirmed reports that there was a second shooter.
A man dressed entirely in black, with the words “Life is a Gamble” on the back of his sweatshirt, was seen being taken into custody by law enforcement officers.
Four shooting victims were admitted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, hospital spokesman Mark Wheeler said. Two were in critical condition, one was in serious condition, and one was in good condition, he said.
Jeff Furrows of the Santa Monica Fire Department said there was extensive fire damage inside the nearby home. A woman also was found with a gunshot wound in a car outside the home, he said.
Jerry Cunningham Rathner, who lives near the house, said she heard gunshots shortly before noon and came out onto her porch to see a man shooting at the residence. Soon, the building erupted in flames and was billowing smoke.
The gunman, dressed in black and wearing an ammunition belt, went to the corner and pointed a military-style rifle at a woman in a car and told her to pull over, Rathner said. He then signaled to a second car, also driven by a woman, to slow down and began firing into the vehicle.
“He fired three to four shots into the car — boom, boom, boom, right at her,” said Cunningham, who went to the woman’s aid and saw she was wounded in the shoulder.
“I can’t believe she didn’t have worse injuries,” Cunningham said.
From there the scene shifted to Santa Monica College, which is located in a neighborhood of strip malls and homes, more than a mile inland from the city’s famous Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade and its expansive, sandy beaches.
Jimes Gillespie, 20, told The Associated Press he was in the college’s library studying when he heard gunfire, and he and dozens of other students began fleeing the three-story building.
“As I was running down the stairs I saw one of the gunmen,” said Gillespie, who described the shooter as a white man in his 20s, wearing cornrows in his hair and black overalls. He said the man was carrying a shotgun.
Gillespie believes there were two shooters because he heard two kinds of gunfire — a shotgun and a handgun — but only saw one person.
“The shotgun blast was first. It was either him or the partner who shot eight to 10 handgun shots,” Gillespie said. “Then after I saw the gunman I heard more shots and I ran out of the library through the emergency exit.”
As Gillespie ran across campus, he said he saw a car in front of the English building that was riddled with bullet holes, had shattered windows and a baby’s car seat in the back.
Santa Monica police Sgt. Rudy Flores said numerous witnesses called to report that the shooting near the college began with a man on a street corner near the college firing shots at vehicles, including a bus.
California Highway Patrol Officer Vince Ramirez said his agency began receiving 911 calls just minutes before noon.
“We understand one shooter was taken into custody shortly after we arrived,” he said.
Ramirez said officers were searching the 38-acre campus after witnesses said they believed there was a second shooter. He emphasized that those reports were unconfirmed.
The two-year college, with about 34,000 students, was in the midst of final exams Friday. It was quickly locked down by police, and students were told to leave.
As the drama unfolded, Obama was attending a fundraising luncheon about three miles away.
Secret Service spokesman Max Milien said the agency was aware of the shooting but it had no impact on the president’s event.