June 13, 2013
City News Service
Amid heightened security, students returned to the Santa Monica College campus on Monday to continue taking final exams, while counselors were on hand to help anyone still reeling from a mass shooting there on Friday June 7. The rampage ended on the school grounds and left five people dead, along with the gunman. Police on Sunday identified the suspect, John Zawahri, who would have turned 24 Saturday.
He was shot and killed by police in the campus library. Also released Sunday were the names of four victims — the gunman’s father, Samir Zawahri, 55; his brother, Christopher Zawahri, 24; Marcela Dia Franco, 26, who died Sunday; and her father, Carlos Franco, 68. The fifth victim, whose name was not released, is believed to have been a woman — possibly a homeless woman who was seen regularly collected recyclables on the campus.
Marcela Franco was surrounded by her family as she died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Sunday morning, according to the hospital. Her father was killed instantly as the two were shot in his red SUV as they drove out of a college parking lot near 20th and Pearl streets. The young woman wanted to be a clinical psychologist.
When her school, Cal State Dominguez Hills, couldn’t provide the units she needed to graduate in the fall, she decided to take the courses at Santa Monica, where her father worked for 22 years as a groundskeeper. One shooting victim, identified as Debra Fine, was in good condition and was released Saturday night. Some students returning to campus were still shaken by the shootings.
Julio Aguilar told ABC7 he had left the campus library moments before Zawahri walked in and opened fire.
“I don’t even think I should be alive, but I thank God that I am,” he said.
A candlelight vigil was held in front of the campus library Monday evening. Graduation ceremonies at 6 p.m. Tuesday doubled as a memorial service for the victims of the shootings.
“We work every day to help students overcome obstacles and to achieve their career and transfer goals,” SMC President Chui L. Tsang wrote on the college's website.
“We celebrate the achievements of many of our students as they graduate. We look forward to this wonderful ceremony and time of family pride.”
Counseling services were offered for students and staff over the weekend, and counselors were available on the main campus again on Monday. The killing spree began about a mile from the SMC campus around midday Friday, when fire broke out at a home near Yorkshire and Kansas avenues, and the bodies of Samir and Christopher Zawahri were found inside. The gunman then carjacked a woman, who told the Los Angeles Times the man ordered her to drive him to SMC, stopped at various points on the way to fire randomly at people and vehicles — including a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.
He eventually got out of the woman’s car and ran onto the campus and into the library, where he was killed by police.