Coroner details grisly gun-rampage deaths
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — As authorities pressed their investigation into why Santa Monica gunman John Zawahri killed five people in a rampage last week, new details began to emerge about the violence.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office provided details of the deaths of the five people police say the 23-year-old Zawahri fatally shot and of the gunman, who was killed by police on Friday.
Zawahri’s father, Samir Zawahri, 55, was shot multiple times and his brother, Christopher Zawahri, 25, was shot once in the chest, said coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral. The gunshots killed the father and brother in the father’s home.
The gunman then carjacked a woman and moved toward Santa Monica College, shooting at strangers in a public bus and a car. The 15-minute rampage occurred as students were taking final exams and ended with John Zawahri fatally shot by officers in the college library. Corral said he died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Victims included a campus groundskeeper Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, who died of gunshot wounds to the neck and face; his daughter, Marcela Diaz-Franco, 26, a student at the college who died of a gunshot wound to the head; and Margarita Gomez, 68, who was collecting cans outside the library and died of gunshot wounds to the abdomen and chest.
Seven years before he went on Friday’s rampage, Zawahri kept bomb-making materials at his house and threatened students, teachers and campus police officers at a school he attended for troubled students, officials said.
Zawahiri was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation in 2006 after the discovery.
Police in 2006 searched the house where Zawahri lived with his father after the teen made repeated violent threats against students, teachers and campus security officers at Olympic High School.
Retired police officer Cristina Coria, who helped execute the search warrant, said Tuesday she didn’t know what was found at the house or the outcome of the mental evaluation.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school board was briefed at the time by school administrators after police found Zawahri was learning to make explosives by downloading instructions from YouTube, school board member Oscar de la Torre said.
“It was some type of devices or materials that would be able to make explosives, and the word ‘pipe bombs’ was what was referred to,” he told The Associated Press. “If it was guns and stuff like that it would have been more serious, but because it was explosives, it wasn’t deemed ‘Oh my God,’ just that this guy had a fascination.”
Investigators are looking at his police history, along with a stormy family life, to determine what led to the chaotic shooting Friday. The encounter seven years ago appeared to be the last reported run-in Zawahri had with police until Friday.
Police Sgt. Richard Lewis said a pipe was found in the home in 2006, but he declined to provide more details because Zawahri was a juvenile at the time.
Zawahri wasn’t expelled, but he didn’t finish classes at Olympic High — a school for students who have academic or disciplinary issues. District superintendent Sandra Lyon said Zawahri attended the school for six months during 2006.
De la Torre, who was a neighbor of Zawahri, said the gunman’s father told him he was having problems with his son eight months ago.
“They didn’t talk to a lot of people, they were very reserved,” de la Torre said. “One time he did tell me he had problems with his younger son, knowing I work with youth. He never went into detail about anything.”