SANTA BARBARA: A gunman in a black BMW opened fire in a bustling California seaside college town, killing six and injuring seven in what police suggested Saturday was a “premeditated mass murder.”
The suspect also died during the drive-by shooting in Isla Vista, near the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara. But it was unclear whether the fatal shot was self-inflicted or delivered by police.
Starting at about 9:30 p.m. Friday (0430 GMT Saturday), the gunman sprayed bullets on pedestrians at multiple locations in the small oceanfront town as students and others were out enjoying the start of the weekend. “We have obtained and we are currently analysing both written and videotaped evidence that suggests that this atrocity was a premeditated mass murder,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters. “We have identified nine separate crime scenes,” he said, describing the situation as “chaotic.” Police have not named the suspect but ABC News identified him as Elliot Rodger, the son of Peter Rodger, an assistant director for one of the blockbuster “Hunger Games” movies.
It quoted an attorney for Rodger as saying his 22-year-old son had been treated for mental health problems.
TV footage showed ambulances and police cars swarming the streets. Andrew Jun, a third year economics and accounting student, told AFP the situation was “pretty surreal.”
“It’s unbelievable that this kind of thing can happen,” he said. Other witnesses said they initially mistook the gunshots for fireworks or firecrackers.
Among them was Robert Johnson, who told a local NBC affiliate that he saw the BMW stop in front of a deli and heard “somewhere between 12 to 20 shots (fired) into a group of people” who were eating in front of the establishment.
Sienna Schwartz, her voice breaking, recalled how she came face-to-face with the gunman.
At first, she told CNN, she thought the “little black pistol” he had was an airsoft gun.
“I turned around, and I started walking the other way. He shot, and I felt like — I just felt, like, the wind pass right by my face,” she recalled as she choked back tears.
Authorities, who believe the shooter acted alone but have not released details on a possible motive, also are investigating a video allegedly posted by the suspect on YouTube.
The Santa Barbara Independent reported the video was posted the day before the rampage and that, in it, the shooter “laments his ‘life of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires.’”
The publication claims he goes on to blame women for rejecting him and instead throwing themselves at “obnoxious brutes.” The university’s Daily Nexus newspaper quoted the shooter as blogging that “being lonely in a beautiful place like Santa Barbara is truly a horrible experience.”
“As I’ve said many times, a beautiful environment can be the darkest hell if you have to experience it all alone, especially while having to watch other men walking around with their girlfriends.”
Police have not confirmed the authenticity of the video or the blog.
The shooter twice exchanged gunfire with police from his car before crashing into a parked vehicle.
When officers approached him, the suspect “was dead of an apparent gunshot wound to the head,” according to Brown.
Police said they recovered a handgun from the suspect’s car.
The shooting hit as the academic year was winding down, with some students preparing for graduation ceremonies while others were about to take final exams.
Located about 100 miles (160 kilometres) northwest of Los Angeles, the University of California Santa Barbara is home to over 20,000 undergraduate students, according to the institution’s website.
School shootings have become a tragic periodic occurrence in the United States in recent years, from the December 2012 massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 small children dead to the Virginia Tech college shooting in April 2007 in which 33 people, including the lone gunman, lost their lives.
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