Making peace with tragedy in Seal Beach

A memorial to the victims of Wednesday's shooting spree was set up outside Salon Meritage.
A memorial to the victims of Wednesday's shooting spree was set up outside Salon Meritage.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

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For Seal Beach and nearby communities, there is no way to make sense of the worst killing spree in the history of Orange County, but some are trying to make their peace with it. Waves crashed on the sand along Seal Beach's shore as alongside the pier, as a handful of sunbathers soaked in the fall sunshine. Out in the ocean, children and a few adults splashed in the water. The scene seemed a million miles from the sudden and deadly violence that happened just down the street. Seal Beach is a tightly-knit community of 25,000 – a city of “surf, fun and sun.” It is something else now. Spencer Strauss has been getting his hair cut for 10 years next door to Salon Meritage. He says the memory of Wednesday's tragedy will tinge everyday activities and be etched into Seal Beach's landscape. "Just heart broken. Tragedy in our small community. It would be a tragedy if it happened anywhere, we’re not unique in that way," he said. "It hurts. It was driving by and I thought I’m never going to be able to drive by here the same way." Rebecca Payne walks her small dog Friday past Salon Meritage nearly every morning. She says she still can’t believe this quaint town – with its cute boutiques, cafes and ice cream stores – is now the scene of Orange County’s worst mass murder. “I think it’s just…shattered so many people," Payne says. “For me, I’m a mom and I’m just thinking of that little boy that lost his mom and his dad and all the other people that were injured of affected by this. It’s just awful. It just breaks my heart."

Video: A town's peace shattered

Police say the gunman was 42-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai of Huntington Beach. The Orange County district attorney will outline the charges at a morning news conference. His victims were Randy Lee Fannin, Victoria Ann Buzzo, Lucia Bernice Kondas, Laura Lee Elody, Christy Lynn Wilson, Michele Fast, David Caouette, and Michelle Marie Fournier, Dekraai's ex-wife. Fournier was a hair stylist at the salon – and apparently his main target. Dekraai’s neighbors and Fournier’s salon customers say the two were embroiled in a custody battle over their young son. But it not clear so many others were shot and killed. Jerry Roman is among those who paid tribute outside the salon.

"To think that innocent people got up yesterday thinking they were going to live their life like any other day just come down here and get your hair done and some guy decides he wants to punish everybody." Reverend Joshua Reeves is minister of the Center for Spiritual Living, across the street from Salon Meritage. Since the shooting, Reeves has been counseling friends and neighbors. "We’re heart broken, we’re angry we’re frustrated and we’re overwhelmed. Although it’s discomforting for some of us to face that if we don’t accept where we are first there will be no moving forward," says Reeves. "We’re so tight knit and so many of us have worked so hard to cultivate and environment of peace not just with lack of crime but in how we communicate with one another so for a tragic event like this to happen is just shocked the nervous system of the town." Reeves says suggests celebrating the lives of those who died by doing something they would have enjoyed - or simply by taking time to be grateful for the small things. The reverend says that’s a healthy first step toward healing Seal Beach – and everyone who lives there.