SANTA MONICA, California: A gunman dressed in black killed at least six people in a string of shootings through the seaside California town of Santa Monica on Friday before he was shot dead by police in a community college library, law authorities said.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said a second individual she described as a “person of interest” was taken into custody in connection with the violence, which unfolded a few miles from where President Barack Obama was attending a political fundraiser.
Obama completed his remarks at the event without interruption and left town for a planned summit near Palm Springs with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Secret Service called the shootings a “local police matter.”
The rampage began east of Santa Monica College shortly before noon as police received multiple reports of a house fire, a carjacking and shootings in the area.
The bodies of two people were discovered at the fire scene and four more bodies were found at two other locations between the burning home and the college, police said.
Three women suffering gunshot wounds, one of whom was found in her car outside the burning home, were rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where one later died.
The overall death toll was at least seven, including the gunman. Several other people were injured in the rampage, one of them a woman listed in critical condition, police and hospital officials said.
Police exchanged gunfire with the suspect outside the college and pursued him into a library, where he was shot and killed, Seabrooks said.
She said the exact sequence of events remained under investigation and authorities had no known motive for the rampage.
Earlier, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol had said that officers received a report of a man armed with multiple weapons, including a shotgun, firing at passing cars and a bus at two locations near the college campus just west of Los Angeles.
Students at the campus library described a scene of pandemonium as the sounds of gunfire rang out, sending some scurrying for cover.
One student inside the library, Cyrus Jabari, 19, said he could see through a window a man dressed in black with a buzz-style haircut carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.
“The only thing between me and him was a glass door,” he told Reuters.
One unidentified witness to the shooting told a CNN affiliate that he saw a man drive up in a car near the campus, walk into the middle of an intersection with a gun and open fire at passing vehicles and a building before “he jumped back in the car and took off.”
“It seemed like he was alone in his car,” the witness said, saying that he took cover under the dashboard of his car, which was struck by gunfire. “I saw him jumping out of the car. He had a big, black gun in his hand and he just started blasting maybe 10 rounds from the left to the right.”
Obama had been attending a fundraising event at the Santa Monica home of former News Corp President Peter Chernin at about the time of the shooting and had just finished his remarks. He made no mention of the incident.
A Secret Service spokesman in Washington said: “We are aware of the incident and it is not impacting the visit. It’s a local police matter at this point.”