SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Investigators trying to determine why a gunman planned a shooting spree in Santa Monica that killed four people, were focusing on a deadly act of domestic violence that touched off the mayhem.
The heavily armed man’s attack against his own family led to Friday’s violence in Santa Monica streets, lasting just a matter of minutes until he was shot to death in a chaotic scene at a college library by police.
Investigators were looking at family connections to find a motive because the killer’s father and brother were the first victims, an official briefed on the probe who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press.
The killer, who died a day shy of his 24th birthday, was connected to the home that went up in flames after the first shootings, said Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks. She refused to elaborate or name the suspect because a surviving family member was out of the country and couldn’t immediately be notified.
Standing next to the weapons and ammo found at multiple crime scenes, Seabrooks said at a Saturday news conference that the “cowardly murderer” planned the attack and was capable of firing 1,300 rounds.
“Any time someone puts on a vest, of some sort, comes out with a bag full of loaded magazines, has an extra receiver, has a handgun and has a semi-automatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people and has to be neutralized at the hands of the police, I would say that that’s premeditated,” she said.
The killer had a run-in with police seven years ago, but Seabrooks wouldn’t offer more details because he was a juvenile at the time.
His father, Samir Zawahri, 55, brought his family to the neighborhood of small homes and apartment buildings tucked up against Interstate 10 in the mid-1990s, according to property records.
Not long after arriving on Yorkshire Avenue, the couple went through a difficult divorce and split custody of their two boys, said Thomas O’Rourke, a neighbor.
“It was not an easy breakup,” O’Rourke said. “It was a bitter divorce.”
When the sons got older, one went to live with his mother while the other stayed with the father.
“The father was a very nice gentleman,” O’Rourke said. “But the boys just kind of kept to themselves. Didn’t really socialize with any of the neighbors.”
SWAT team officers searched the mother’s Los Angeles apartment Friday night and officers interviewed neighbors about the son who lived with her, said Beverly Meadows who lives in the adjoining unit.
Public records show that Meadows’ neighbor is Randa Abdou, 54, the ex-wife of Zawahri and former co-owner of the house where the first shooting took place.
The mother was out of the country visiting relatives and wasn’t expected home for another week, Meadows said. It wasn’t clear if the son who lived with Abdou was a victim or the suspected gunman.
The gunman was enrolled at Santa Monica College in 2010, Seabrooks said.