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At Least Four Dead, Several Hurt In Santa Monica Shootings, Police Say

Students rush to safety after shots were fired near the Santa Monica College Friday. According to reports, at least six people were shot, and a suspect was taken into custody. One shooting victim died of her injuries during surgery.
Kevork Djansezian
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Students rush to safety after shots were fired near the Santa Monica College Friday. According to reports, at least six people were shot, and a suspect was taken into custody. One shooting victim died of her injuries during surgery.

(Last updated at 11:45 p.m. ET)

As many as four people died in a series of shootings in Santa Monica Friday, according to city police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks. The gunman was eventually shot to death in an exchange of fire with police in the library of Santa Monica College, she said at a news conference.

Police said earlier that seven people were killed, but later corrected that number to five people total, including the gunman, at a news conference Friday night.

The complicated sequence of events has evolved throughout the afternoon, so we've rewritten the top of this post.

In addition to those killed, at least five people were reportedly injured in the day's violence, which police say should be viewed not as a school shooting, but rather as a string of violence that ended on a college campus after the suspect fled on foot.

The origin of the day's events has been traced to a house that was set ablaze. Police and firefighters who arrived at the scene just before noon found two bodies there.

Soon after, reports came in of a man who was shooting at cars and buses.

"There was a guy standing in the street, dressed in full SWAT gear with a semi-automatic rifle in his hand and a belt full of ammunition," a witness tells Santa Monica's KABC 7.

Others reported that the man was armed with more than one weapon, possibly a shotgun as well as an assault-style rifle.

After firing shots in several locations, the gunman ran onto the Santa Monica College campus in an attempt "to evade the officers" who were chasing him, Seabrooks said.

That's where the gunman eventually died, after he shot a woman on his way into the school library.

Friday afternoon, police said that they had another person in custody as part of their investigation. That person was later released, according to the AP.

Sgt. Richard Lewis, a Santa Monica police spokesman, said the man was released following questioning and is no longer a suspect.

"It was not clear what connection the suspect had to the suspected gunman," member station KPCC reports, "but Seabrooks said police are not convinced 100 percent that the deceased suspect was operating alone."

Police caution that the investigation of Friday's violence has only just begun, as they process at least five crime scenes and look for possible motives. Seabrooks said police believe that all but two of the deceased — those found at the house at Yorkshire Avenue — were victims of random attacks.

The violence sparked activity on Twitter, where witnesses sent updates, photos, and videos as the events unfolded. KPCC gathered a string of those updates in a Storify presentation.

Santa Monica College is a two-year community college with a student population of 34,000.

This is a breaking news story. We'll update this post as soon as we get more information. As always, we remind you that in fluid situations, what we know can change. We will point only to credible sources and if something changes we'll note it immediately.

Update at 7:45 p.m. ET. Six Dead, Police Say:

The violence began at a house in Santa Monica, Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks says. Then the gunman, who was reportedly dressed in black and wearing a ballistic vest, continued firing at passing cars. He eventually arrived at Santa Monica College, where police officers shot and killed him at the school's library. Seabrooks gave that version of events at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Update at 5:45 p.m. ET. 'I Ran As Fast As I Could,' Student Says:

A vivid account of Friday's shooting comes from Brett Holzhauer, a student athlete who plays water polo at Santa Monica College. He was in the library near the scene of some of Friday's violence. Here's how Holzhauer describes the attack to our NPR's Newscast unit:

"I was in the library when everything happened," he says. "I was studying for a final today with two of my classmates. And I went to the bathroom; came back. And as I was walking from the bathroom back to go study, I heard just one bang. I thought, 'Oh,' — you know, like somebody just dropped their stuff, or a cabinet just closed really hard."

"And then I hear 10-15 consecutive gunshots.

"I ran as fast as I could, to go grab my stuff. And then, as soon as I could grab my stuff, or whatever I could of it, I dove into a private study room, to hide out.

"I dove in there with about seven other students. We just waited there for about 35 minutes. And then, next thing I know, I hear walkie-talkies, so I know the cops are coming."

The police flung open the door, weapons drawn.

Holzhauer says they yelled, "Get your hands up! We don't know who you are!"

"And then they escorted us out.

"As I was walking out, or crawling out [of the library lobby], as they forced us to, I saw hundreds of rounds of high-caliber ammunition.

"I'm a huge gun advocate. So, definitely, what I heard being shot was a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun. I know for a fact that he was shooting that."

As he left the building, Holzhauer says, he saw broken glass on the floor, and blood smeared on the library's steps.

"As they were escorting us out, they were running us out, I saw a dead body," he says. "I saw someone down."

Update at 4:25 p.m. ET. Passing Vehicles:

NPR's Kirk Siegler reports from Santa Monica that witnesses tell police the shooting began on a street corner with the suspect shooting at passing vehicles.

NPR member station KPCC spoke to one witness who told the station that a man, who appeared to be carrying a long black gun, "fired at least five shots."

"When I was at the stop sign, I looked him dead in his face, and then it was a green car that was coming, and then another car," the witness, whom KPCC identified as Evelyn, said. "He just let loose and just started shooting, so I took off. And then he came down the street shooting."

Update at 4 p.m. ET. Miles From President Obama:

At the time of the shooting, President Obama was about 3 miles from the college attending a fundraising event. The AP reports:

"Secret Service spokesman Max Milien said the agency was aware of the shooting and it's not affecting the president's event."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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