John Zawahri, 23, was gunned down the day before his 24th birthday in the Santa Monica College library after he went on a shooting rampage that left several injured and five people dead, including his father and older brother.
Law enforcement officials suggest Zawahri was motivated by anger over his parents’ divorce, which may have been exacerbated by documented psychological issues. Initial reports concluded that the gunman had no connection with Santa Monica College and that his choice to go there was random, but further investigation has revealed that he was enrolled at the college in 2010.
The chain of events that ended at the college library suggests the spree was premeditated and authorities have confirmed that suspicion. After shooting his father and brother and setting the family home ablaze, Zawahri carjacked a woman and forced her to drive him to the college. At the time, Zawahri was clothed in black and wearing a protective vest, and carried an assault rifle, a handgun and nearly 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
One injured woman who attempted to intervene in the carjacking described Zawahri as acting with “no hesitation” as he shot her three times. Debra Fine, who is now recovering at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said she played dead in an attempt to avoid being killed by the gunman.
Five others were not so fortunate. In addition to Zawahri’s father and brother, also killed were Carlos Franco, 68, his daughter Marcela Franco, 26, and one woman who has yet to be identified.
Police say they have not found any connection to terrorist organizations or extremist groups, and believe Zawahri’s actions may have been triggered by an incident of domestic violence. The gunman’s mother, who was out of the country at the time of the shooting, returned upon hearing the news and authorities have questioned her to find further evidence of a motive.