WESTMINSTER — A Huntington Beach women's basketball star was shot to death Thursday by her despondent ex-boyfriend, who then pointed a shotgun at his chest and took his own life on a quiet Westminster street, authorities said.
As horrified neighbors watched, Krisden Yoshiko Tanabe, 18, was shot in the back of the neck about 4:30 p.m. as she tried to flee from Thomas Deshields White, 22, of Cypress, Westminster Police Lt. Larry Woessner said. After he shot Tanabe at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun, White walked a few yards away and--despite pleas from the dead woman's best friend--shot himself, Woessner said.
Police and friends of the dead woman said Tanabe four months ago had ended her relationship with White. Tanabe, who was a freshman at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, was about to begin playing for the college's women's basketball team. She was perhaps best known as a star basketball player and consistent top scorer for Edison High School in Huntington Beach. She had recently moved to Fountain Valley.
The murder-suicide occurred in the 10000 block of Tree Bark Circle as students from nearby James Irvine Intermediate School in Garden Grove were returning home from classes.
Woessner said detectives had not yet positively determined a motive in the shooting, but members of the family Tanabe was visiting said it was a revenge attack for a fight Tanabe and White had had on Wednesday. Thursday's shooting occurred yards away from the home of Tanabe's best friend, Donna Joe Gondringer, who with the 5-foot-10 Tanabe formed the heart of Golden West's women's basketball team.
Gondringer's 12-year-old brother, Jason Gondringer, who said he had witnessed the fight between the couple the day before, said White was waiting in his car parked near the Gondringer house.
"He yelled my name, 'Jason,' " the badly shaken seventh-grader recalled after the shooting. "He asked me what time they (Donna Gondringer and Tanabe would) be back. I told him about 4. He was mad. He yanked himself back in the car seat and told me, 'OK, take it easy,' and I went inside."
Minutes later, Jason said, Gondringer and Tanabe pulled up in front of the house. When his sister entered, Jason said he asked her about Tanabe and she replied that Tanabe was "outside talking to Thomas."
Next, Jason said, "I heard a big bang and Donna ran outside. My sister was screaming and crying.
"Donna was on the ground. She was saying, 'She's dead, she's dead.' "
Jason said he looked outside and saw Tanabe kneeling on the sidewalk, then fall forward, her car keys still clutched in her hand.
"I feel like throwing up," said the boy, whose eyes were red and swollen. "It's all flashing in my head now. When I was icing her hands yesterday, she was hurting and I gave her a big hug."
A sobbing Donna Gondringer recalled Thursday night that she and Tanabe had just finished basketball practice and had gone to the Huntington Center mall, where they bought jackets and had their ears pierced. Because they had come in separate cars, Gondringer said they planned to drop one car at her home before continuing their shopping trip.
"I said, 'Krisden, why don't we just take one car?' " Gondringer said. "And she said 'OK, D.J., I'm right behind you.' And that was the last thing she said to me."
Gondringer said she was with Tanabe on the sidewalk when the shots rang out. "She fell in my arms," she said.
Gondringer and another friend, Stacee Johnson, 19, said Tanabe loved basketball and loved to dance. The three, who all played basketball at Golden West College, used to dress alike for dance routines at local clubs. People called them "The Golden West Girls."
Gondringer and Johnson said White had never accepted Tanabe's decision to end their relationship. White was Tanabe's first boyfriend, her friends said.
"As far as he was concerned they were still together. But as far as she was concerned, they'd broken up four months ago," said Johnson, adding that Tanabe broke up with White because "she wanted to go out with other people and live a little. . . . She was so confused. They both were."
Her friends said White's behavior after the breakup worried them.
"He (White) constantly bugged her," Gondringer said. "He bugged everybody. He called. He'd come over to my house every day. He'd call everywhere, wanting to know where Krisden was, what she was doing."
Both women said White had often threatened to commit suicide. Johnson said White had been seeing a counselor to try to get over the breakup.
"He always said if they broke up, he would kill himself because he couldn't live without Krisden," Gondringer said. "To him, Krisden was so precious; she was everything the world had to offer and more."
Both women described White as a "nice guy" who always treated their friend well. "He played basketball, he went to school, he had a job" loading cars for a delivery firm, Gondringer said.