One of the first people to encounter Santa Monica shooting suspect John Zawahri was 49-year-old Debra Fine of Westwood Hills. She was lucky to survive.
Fine was driving home on Friday from a singing lesson in Santa Monica. She decided to take a side street, because she figured traffic would be backed up due to President Obama’s visit. Then she saw a man dressed in black holding an automatic rifle. Fine initially thought the man was part of the President’s security team.
"And then he motioned the girl in front of me who was in a car, to pull over, and she did,” Fine recalled. “Then, he pointed the gun at her and she looked very frightened."
Fine grew upset because the woman had already cooperated.
"So I stepped on my gas, and I yelled at him to leave her alone, to stop," she said.
Fine said when the gunman turned to look at her, she knew something was wrong.
"Because his stare was very cold, very focused," she said. "Like he was on a mission, and I was just in the way. And the next thing I knew, he raised his rifle and he shot through my side of the window."
The first bullet hit Fine in her left shoulder. She said the gunman fired more rounds into the car, hitting her four times on her left side.
"And I just kept thinking, 'stop,'" she said. "I was afraid that he was going to come back to the car and kill me so I laid very, very still on the passenger seat."
Fine could smell the smoke from Zawahri’s house that was burning nearby. She thought of her 15-year-old twins. But Zawahri did not come back to her car. He forced the woman in the other car to drive him towards Santa Monica College.
Fine said she’s grateful to the neighbors who rushed out to help her. She’s out of the hospital for now but says there’s still shrapnel in her body and she faces more surgeries.