A gunman went on a shooting rampage Friday in Santa Monica, Calif., killing four people and injuring several others before police killed him in a gun battle on a community college campus, authorities said.
At least one person remained hospitalized in critical condition. In addition, some people remained unaccounted for Friday night, said Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis. Authorities did not release the name of the suspect or the victims Friday night.
The rampage left a bloody, mile-long trail through Santa Monica, beginning at a burning home and ending at Santa Monica College and lasting little more than 10 minutes, authorities said.
It apparently began about 11:52 a.m., when police and firefighters received reports of gunshots and a burning house at 2036 Yorkshire Avenue (map of the rampage). Firefighters would later arrive to discover two bodies inside of the charred house.
Neighbor Jerry Cunningham-Rathner said she heard gunshots and ran out of her home to see a man in front of the burning house across the street.
Two cars slowed to a stop, and the gunman walked over to them, indicating a blue Mazda hatchback should pull over. He motioned to the second car to keep driving, Cunningham-Rathner said.
"He looked official, like a SWAT team guy, dressed in black with his belt full of ammo,” Cunningham-Rathner said. "You could smell the gunshots."
When the driver of the second car hesitated, the gunman fired two to three shots point blank into her car, Cunningham-Rathner said. Authorities said a woman from that scene was hospitalized.
Cunningham-Rathner ran into her home to call 911. When she came back outside, the gunman had gotten into the blue Mazda’s passenger seat and the female driver was pulling away in an apparent carjacking.
The gunman, using an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, fired on people in a series of "random encounters" that proceeded along Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said in a Friday afternoon news conference.
He fired at a public bus, wounding several people. He shot at a red SUV that crashed, killing the Driver and leaving the passenger with critical injuries.
Bus passenger and student Marta Fagerstroem told NBC4 she was studying as the bus, pictured below, traveling along Pico Boulevard when a gunman opened fire on the transit vehicle. The gunman came out of the passenger side of a car "with a big rifle," she said.
The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus had several visible bullet holes. There were reports of injuries involving bus passengers, said CHP Officer Kerri Rivas, a department spokeswoman.
Santa Monica police officers caught up with the gunman near the Santa Monica College campus. They exchanged gunfire, and the gunman fled onto the Santa Monica College campus, Seabrooks said.
The gunman shot at several people on campus and fired on students inside the campus library.
The number of victims had changed multiple times over the course of a quickly developing breaking news story with a mile-wide crime scene. The most recent number is four victims and the suspect, for a total of five dead, Lewis said in an 8:30 p.m. news conference.
Before the revision, police had said six people plus the gunman had died in the shooting spree. Lewis said fluctuating details were due, in part, to the fact that police were citing witness accounts, instead of body counts.
Santa Monica police joined campus police and engaged the gunman inside the library, Seabrooks said.
During the battle, officers shot the gunman. They carried him out to a sidewalk, where he died, Lewis said. The suspect was wearing tactical gear, but not full body armor.
Photos of the gunman's body were posted to social media Friday afternoon.
Authorities cautioned that the incidents were not directly related to the community college. They said the school just happened to be where the shootings ended.
"This is not a school shooting," said Al Vasquez, chief of the Santa Monica College Police Department. "This began off-campus and it was unfortunate that the suspect chose SMC to continue his crimes."
The gunman had not been identified Friday night, but was described as a white male aged 25 to 30 and clad all in black, Seabrooks said.
Earlier Friday, Dr. Marshall T. Morgan, a spokesman for Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said one gunshot victim had died at the hospital. Two other victims transported to the medical center remain hospitalized -- one in critical condition, the other with "minor injuries," Morgan said.
Meanwhile late Friday afternoon, in the nearby 3500 block of Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles police had shut down an intersection and had a broad response in an investigation that LAPD officials said could be related to the Santa Monica incidents.
A man was taken into custody on campus earlier in the day. He was questioned and released after police determined he had a "valid reason" for being at the school, Lewis said.
Santa Monica College was set to remain closed through the weekend as authorities investigated the shootings. Counseling services will be available at the college's Bundy campus Saturday and Sunday. They'll be available on Santa Monica College's main campus starting Monday.
Santa Monica High School’s graduation set for Friday evening will go on as scheduled, a student told NBC4. Lockdowns at 10 other campuses were also lifted.
The shooting spree happened just blocks from the site of a fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama. Air Force One departed LAX at about 2:30 p.m.
"We are aware of the incident and it is not impacting the visit. It’s a local police matter at this point," said Secret Service spokesman Edwin M. Donovan.
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