June 7, 2013: The Santa Monica Shootings


WHAT HAPPENED? (1)


On June 7, 2013, a lone shooter named John Zawahri, went on a killing spree. Like many, it started with some murder in his home, and was followed by a series of random shootings, which took place on the Santa Monica College Campus.


Zawahri killed 5 people and injured 2 before police officers killed him during a gunfire exchange.

ABOUT JOHN ZAWAHRI (1)


John Zawahri was identified as the shooter the following day after the attacks. He had a history of violence, an Olympic High School teacher remembering that, in 2006, she caught him searching the internet for assault weapons and information on how to make a bomb.


He had made various threats against students, teachers, and campus security officers, as well, and police found bomb-making materials in his home. After that, he was admitted to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, but was eventually released. He started at Santa Monica College in the winter of 2009, but despite no disciplinary issues, he dropped out in the fall of 2010.


The cause of the shooting was allegedly some sort of family dispute, though the specific have never been determined. Zawahri's parents married in 1985 and moved into their home in 1996, but his mother left and moved into an apartment with Zawahri and his brother in 1998, attempting to get a restraining order against the father, but it was dismissed when she didn't appear in court. At the time of the shooting, Zawahri's older brother was living with his father, and Zawahri was living with his mother. As of 2013, they had not officially divorced but had been living separately for about 15 years.


He and his mother's neighbor, Beverly Meadows, said after the shooting that Zawahri was abusive toward his mother and that he was just "not right". He'd often howl and scream and yell at his mother. She referred to him as a "useless human" who didn't work or go to school and just stayed home all of the time. (2)

THE RAMPAGE (1)


At 11:52 AM, the California Highway Patrol received an alert that shots had been fired. When they arrived at the scene, they called the fire department because the house was on fire. The house? The one where Zawahri's father lived with his older brother. Once the fire was under control, the bodies of his father and brother were found, both having died from gunshot wounds.


In a handwritten letter found with Zawahri's body after he died, he expressed remorse for killing his dad and brother, but never explained why he did it.


After setting the house on fire, Zawahri took an AR-15 that he had assembled through legally purchased pieces, to get around his inability to legally purchase a gun, and stopped a driver and held her at gunpoint to take her car. When the passenger tried to intervene, he shot her but she survived. He forced the 41-year-old driver to take him to the Santa Monica College campus, and shot at a Big Blue Bus on the way, shooting and injuring 3 people. Once he arrived at the campus, he shot into a Ford Explorer, killing the 68-year-old driver and his passenger.


He got out of the car and continued on foot, shooting a woman outside of the library. He then opened fire on a group of library employees. He fired at least 70 rounds while on campus.


Zawahari did not give himself up, and instead exchanged gunfire with the police officers until they fatally shot him. Also in the letter found on him was a goodbye to his friends and he expressed hope that his mother would be taken care of.


After the shooting, the College was placed on lock-down while police searched for any additional shooters for 8 hours. The lock-down was finally lifted later in the day, but the campus remained closed until the coming Monday for final exams. All area schools were placed on lock-down as well, and mental health counseling was provided to the students, employees and surrounding community.


President Barack Obama had been in Santa Monica at the time for a fundraiser, a mere 10 minutes away from the campus. His motorcade rerouted and he left safely, but the swift police response was partially due to his presence, as many police officers were on his detail.


In total, Zawahri ended 5 lives on June 7, 2013, and injured 4. The wounded ranged from critical to good, and at least one underwent surgery, but they all survived.


His first victims were his father, Samir Zawahri, 55, and his brother, Christopher Zawahri, 24, who both lived in the family's original home that he and his mother moved out of. They were shot and killed after the house was set on fire.


The other murder victims were Margarita Gomez, a 68-year-old woman who was collecting recyclable materials near the university library, Carlos Nacarro Franco, the 68-year-old groundskeeper for the school who was in his Ford Explorer, and his daughter, Marcela Dia Franco, 26, who was wounded but died 2 days later in the hospital.


Besides speculated anger at his family, a motive for the shootings was never determined.


It is crazy to me that there are so many mass shootings that happen in the US that I have either never heard of this, or completely forgot about it. A person taking a gun to a college campus and shooting people at random should be such novel news that it stays in my memory, but I have no recollection of this shooting that occurred only 7 years ago.


What is also crazy is that while, given his mental health and history of violence, he was not able to legally purchase a gun, but he was able to purchase all of the needed materials to create his own weapon. Is there no way to track this? It was a perfectly legal work-around for his entirely illegal plan. One has to imagine it takes some time to build your own assault rifle, so I wonder how long he had been planning his attack?


In a statement after the shooting, his mother Randa Abdou, said she was in mourning for her own family, but also expressed immense sadness for the families who had lost someone to her son's violence. She asked to be given space to "come to grips with the overwhelming sorrow" she was feeling. She lost her husband, both of her sons, and also has to live with the knowledge that her child took the lives of 3 other people. I feel so sorry for this poor woman. (2)


With so many senseless tragedies like these, I'm glad to be writing about them to at least, for one day, remember those who were lost from a combination of gun violence and mental health issues. There are a few more June shootings I'll be writing about this month, and I'll be honest, I was alive during all of them but have a hard time remembering anything about some of them as they get mixed in with all of the shootings we hear about so regularly.


This was an instance where it seemed like everything was done right. When he was seen as a threat with mental health issues, he was treated, and he was banned from purchasing weapons. That is how it should go, right? And yet, it still happened. The laws and regulations must evolve to keep up, and to prevent more and more senseless tragedies by gun in the US.

REFERENCES:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Santa_Monica_shooting

2. https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/06/10/mother-of-santa-monica-gunman-expresses-sadness-for-rampage-victims/


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