UPDATE: Vigil held for victims of Santa Monica shooting

62581 full

Update 8:06 p.m.: Vigil for the victims

Hundreds of people held a vigil Monday night on the Santa Monica College campus for the victims of Friday's shooting spree. 

Students and faculty remembered 67-year-old Margarita Gomez as an older woman who collected recyclables on campus.  Her son, Gabriel Torres, says his mother wasn’t doing that to support herself.

"She would donate either the money or the collectibles to the Church, you know, to help them out. To help out the community.  She had her own means. She rented an apartment.  She was stable.  She didn’t need to do this.  This was just a hobby, to keep her busy, just to keep her moving," Torres said. 

Family members of victims Carlos Franco and his daughter also participated. The group walked from the college’s library to its football stadium. 

RELATEDLegality of weapons in Santa Monica shooting under investigation

Meanwhile, the mother of shooter John Zawahri had returned from a trip to Lebanon but was keeping her distance from reporters. She released the following statement through a neighbor:

"As may be assumed, I am in mourning for my family and those who were also affected by this horrific tragedy over the past few days. I cannot express my great sadness for the families who are also suffering at this terrible time. I do ask the media to please give me time to grieve and come to grips with the overwhelming sorrow. This has befallen all of us."

California State University, Dominguez Hills has taken up a collection to help support the family of Marcela Franco, the 26-year-old daughter of Carlos Franco. 

"As a campus community, our thoughts, prayers, and sympathies are with the Franco family and all the victims and families affected by this senseless act of violence," said CSU Dominguez Hills President Willie J. Hagan in a statement released Monday. "Finding the right words or actions to express the most heartfelt response to such unthinkable tragedy is not easy, but given Marcela's direct ties to CSU Dominguez Hills, our hope is this gesture from the university community can in some way help her loved ones during this difficult time."

To make a donation, the university asked for checks payable to CSUDH Foundation/Marcela Franco Memorial to be mailed to Marcela Franco Memorial, CSU Dominguez Hills Office of Development, 1000 E. Victoria St., Welch Hall A-425, Carson, CA 90747. Donations can also be made online at www.csudh.edu/onlinegiving.

Update 3:26 p.m.: A history of turmoil between shooter's parents

Court records allege a history of turmoil between the parents of John Zawahri, the young man who fatally shot five people in Santa Monica last week.

Randa Abdou, Zawahri's mother, sought a temporary restraining order in 1998 against her husband, whom she described in court documents as "verbally abusive and controlling" during their marriage. 

The father, Samir Zawahri, had sought divorce in 1993, and Abdou was working on divorce papers in 1998.

After a separation, the mother claimed her husband threatened to take their two young sons to Canada, struck her and stole her divorce papers. She said she was afraid to press charges. Her restraining order request was dismissed when she missed a court hearing.

Santa Monica Shooting - Abdou/Zawahri Temporary Restraining Order

Update 12:04 p.m. Police ID fifth victim killed in shooting

Margarita Gomez was the fifth victim killed in a shooting spree Friday near and on Santa Monica College campus, school police confirm. She wasn't a student.

Police say Gomez, an older woman, was probably well known among students and that she collected recyclables on campus.

Communications student Dana Johnson said she saw Gomez often rummaging through garbage bins in campus buildings. Johnson stopped to take pictures of the makeshift shrine near the library near where the gunman killed Gomez.  Johnson stared at a poster of paper hearts pasted to a board with all the dead victims' names written on them, including Margarita Gomez.

"It's always been in passing — you really don't notice those things until they're gone, and then it's like, 'wow.' I've seen her all the time, but it's awful."

An acquaintance says the mother of the gunman who killed five people in Santa Monica, Calif., is in mourning and is trying to make sense of what happened.

Neighbor Beverly Meadows says she spoke with Randa Abdou on Monday. Abdou cut short a family visit in Lebanon and spoke to investigators Sunday.

Meadows says Abdou will not be returning to her Los Angeles apartment anytime soon and has no plans to talk to news media.

Abdou's 23-year-old son John Zawahri shot his father and brother, leaving their home in flames Friday before opening fire on strangers in cars, a bus and on the Santa Monica College campus.

Police say he was heavily armed and carrying 1,300 rounds of ammunition when officers killed him in the campus library.

Previously: Returning to Santa Monica College

Students and staff returned to Santa Monica College Monday, just three days after a deadly shooting left five people dead near and on the campus.

The campus library remains closed. The library is where police shot and killed the suspect, John Zawahri, 23. A candlelight vigil was planned for Monday evening in front of the library.

The mood is somber on the campus Monday as students continue to wrap up finals that were interrupted by the Friday shooting. 
  
Counselors were on hand and a candlelight vigil was planned for Monday evening in front of the library.

SMC student David Iwamizu, 26, is one of many students taking a final Monday at the campus. 

He said more mental health services are needed in the U.S. 

"We can make laws, we can bring more police on campus but that's not going to stop people that have problems from committing these acts, so I really think we [as a nation] should take measures to help people like that and prevent them from doing acts like this," said Iwamizu.  

Tony Ruiz, 19, is taking finals in English and political science Monday. Ruiz said he wasn't on the Santa Monica College campus at the time of the shooting Friday. But, he said a friend was near the library when the shooting happened and phoned him. Ruiz said she was crying and scared.    

He said he didn't like being on the campus Monday.

"Feels kind of dark and scary," Ruiz said.  "For some reason I can feel like ... people have a lot of fear... they're just worried today [Monday.]"

Santa Monica College plans a memorial service during Tuesday night commencement ceremonies. The college will broadcast the event, which begins at 6 p.m., via the internet.

The school has also provided counseling to faculty, staff and students.

The names of four victims were released Sunday - the gunman's father, Samir Zawahri, 55; his brother, Christopher Zawahri, 24; Marcela Franco, 26, who succumbed Sunday; and her father, Carlos Franco, 68. The fifth victim, whose name was not released, is believed to have been a woman.

Marcela Franco was surrounded by her family as she died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Sunday morning. Her father was killed instantly as the two were in his red SUV at the school on Friday.  One shooting victim, Debra Fine, was in good condition and was released Saturday night.

The Carlos Franco Family Memorial Fund has been set up in memory of two of the victims - the groundskeeper of the college, Carlos Franco, and his daughter, Marcela, who was an SMC graduate. 

Investigators, meanwhile, were trying to determine why John Zawahri, 23, killed his father and older brother in a home near campus Friday, leaving the house in flames. He fired at a car, wounding the driver, took another motorist hostage and forced her to drive as he shot at people and a bus in the neighborhood. He shot a woman in the head on campus and was shot and killed by police in the college library after gunning down a total of five people in fewer than 15 minutes.

This story has been updated.

blog comments powered by Disqus