John Zawahri, who would have turned 24 on Saturday, has been identified by authorities as the deceased suspect in the Santa Monica College Shootings that have so far left six people (including Zawahri) dead and four others wounded.
Here’s what you need to know about the mystery man behind America’s latest mass shooting.
1. He Killed His Father and Brother
The 13-minute-long bloody mayhem that ensued on Friday, June 7, in Santa Monica began at 2036 Yorkshire Avenue (above), Zawahri’s home, where investigators found the bodies of his brother and his father, Christopher Zawahri, 25, and Samir Zawahri, 55. Both were dead of gunshot wounds.
Zawahri’s parents have been divorced for several years and his mother was out of the country, in her homeland of Lebanon, at the time of the shooting.
After the initial murders, Zawahri is believed to have set fire to his father’s home, which was engulfed in flames when authorities arrived.
2. At Age 16 Zawahri Tried to Buy Assault Weapons Online
The LA Times reports that Zawahri, in 2006, was cutting class from the special needs Olympic High School, and was found to be trying to buy assault rifles online on school computers.
LAist.com says that after news of Zawahri’s search habits spread across the school, a student came forward to say that Zawahri once showed him a samurai sword and afterward, Zawahri told the unnamed student about all of his classmates that he wanted to harm. After this revelation Zawahri was admitted to UCLA’S psychiatric ward. He did not remain there for very long but officials have not commented on the nature of his release.
Neighbor Tim O’Rourke speculated Zawahri was angry over the end of his parents’ marriage, reports the Daily Bulletin. But there are many factors at play.
The LA Times is reporting that the carnage began because of sort of domestic dispute.
3. His Mom Says She Was a Victim of Extreme Domestic Abuse
According to Zawahri’s former elementary school teacher, Wendy Parise, there was “tremendous violence” in the Zawahri home. She told the LA Times:
I was very concerned for this little boy and his mother. I can only imagine what this very quiet, withdrawn little boy was observing. … My heart just aches thinking about his life, all these years.
Parise went on to say that Zawahri’s mother, Randa Abdou, told her once that her husband had held a knife to her throat. The LA Times goes on to say:
Zawahri’s parents had been divorced for years, neighbors said. Court records show two divorce filings. One was filed in 1993, by Samir Zawahri. Another, noting domestic violence, was filed by Abdou in 1998.
Abdou wrote in a court documents, filed in 1998, that she and her husband were married in 1985 in Lebanon but spent five years apart after he moved to America. Shortly after she joined him in America, the abuse began, reports the Mercury News.
Their marriage ended in 1998 with Samir Zawahri angrily confronting Randa Abdou in work, he is alleged to have said to her:
If I had a gun, it would be over.
4. Neighbors Described Zawahri as ‘Angry’ and ‘Crazy’
While one neighbor referred to Zawahri’s mother as “pleasant,” her son is described as “angry” and as “having a loud, booming voice” — and when he was angry his outbursts could be heard throughout their apartment complex. Another neighbor, Beverley Meadows, called Zawahri’s mother “a lovely woman, petite, sweet, quiet, brunet and classy — with a crazy kid.”
Abdou was in Lebanon, where she’s originally from, on the day of the shooting. She had been there on a month-long vacation and had been due back in Los Angeles some time this week. She arrived back in LA on Sunday and is believed to have been co-operating with authorities.
5. He Had Been Enrolled in the College
As late as 2010 it’s believed that Zawahri had been enrolled in Santa Monica College, with his brother. It’s unclear what Zawahri was doing since leaving the school. It’s been reported that he was unemployed.
The AP reports today that Zawahri was enrolled in the college for the fall semester of 2009, he attended classes related to entertainment and video game design.
6. He Was Armed to the Teeth
According to police sources, Zawahri had armed himself with an AR-15, a handgun, and 1,300 rounds of ammunition.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks told reporters:
If one were to give an approximation of all of the magazines that we collected were in fact loaded fully, something in the order of about 1,300 rounds and that’s an estimation…1,300 rounds could have been fired had there not been an interdiction and the person neutralized at an appropriate time.
It’s known now that Zawahri, after killing his father and brother, committed a carjacking and while enroute to the school, and had the woman pull over while he expelled rounds at random targets including a local bus. It was during this gunfire that Zawahri killed Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, who was driving by near the Santa Monica College campus. Franco was bringing his daughter, Marcela, to the college to buy books for her California State University studies.
In one of his final acts, Franco left a voicemail for his wife, saying:
I’m running a little late, but I want you to know that I still love you.
Three other people were hit during Zawahri’s random street shooting, but all have minor wounds.
7. Zawahri Stood and Watched His Father’s House Burn
A neighbor told the LA Times that she saw a man, whom she believed to be a SWAT team member, standing clad in full black military regalia watching the house burn to the ground. Eventually, as two cars approached Zawahri, he pulled them both over, shooting at one car, slightly injuring the driver.
He then commandeered the car of Laura Price, 41, who offered to let Zawahri take her yellow Mazda hatchback but he insisted that she drive him to Santa Monica College at gunpoint.
8. Zawahri Was Brought Down in the School’s Library
The shooting spree was finally ended in a library that was packed with students studying for finals. Upon entering the building, Zawahri shot a woman, since identified as Margarita Gomez, 68, who was collecting recyclables at the college, in the head at point-blank range. Meanwhile students ran for cover and a group cleverly created a “safe room,” that was barricaded from Zawahri with anything that came to hand. The deranged gunman shot at the room but nobody was hurt.
The stills taken from the CCTV hauntingly show Zawahri marching into the building carrying a large firearm.
9. He Acted Alone
Despite numerous reports that police were seeking a second suspect it has since come to light that Zawahri acted alone, and he did not have any terrorist affiliation domestically or abroad.
10. Police Say This Was NOT a Traditional School Shooting
In a televised interview, the Santa Monica College Police Chief made it clear that this started in Zawahri’s father’s house and spun out of control into a school shooting.
Santa Monica College Police Chief: “this is not a school shooting, and began off campus”
— NewsBreaker (@NewsBreaker) June 7, 2013
The full motive behind Friday’s events has yet to be elucidated, and is sure to be further explored in the coming days. It appears Santa Monica College was not a pre-ordained target, but rather a potential safe-haven for an armed lunatic on the run.
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