A plastics factory inspector who killed two colleagues and wounded four others Thursday apparently began his shooting frenzy because he thought co-workers had mocked his sexual orientation, police said Friday.
"I am not gay!" Daniel S. Marsden, 38, yelled during the rampage, police said. Officials said it remains unclear whether other factors caused him to attack his fellow employees.
Marsden later turned the gun on himself in front of horrified onlookers on a South-Central Los Angeles corner and died Thursday afternoon.
After arriving at Omni Plastics in Santa Fe Springs Thursday morning, Marsden began shouting and complaining that certain employees were taunting him because they thought he was gay, police said.
"He was upset about that," said Chuck Drylie, spokesman for the Whittier Police Department. "That appears to be the motivating factor: ridicule from other employees."
An Omni spokeswoman said the company had no knowledge that anyone was taunting him.
According to the spokeswoman, Maria Contreras-Sweet, employees said Marsden had overheard a recent conversation between co-workers in Spanish and demanded to know if they were talking about his sexual orientation. "The discussion had nothing to do with that," Contreras-Sweet said. "No one had any knowledge that anything like [ridicule] happened. We haven't been able to understand it."
Cindy Mora, a payroll accountant who cowered under her desk during the rampage, said co-workers who witnessed the scene told her Marsden screamed, "I am not homosexual--you people are going to pay!" before opening fire.
Police said it was unclear if Marsden was shooting at the people he thought were taunting him. However, several witnesses reported that Marsden seemed to be firing at random.
"He was shooting at anything that moved," Mora said.
The shooting left many in shock as they tried to comprehend the sudden violence in a typically placid workplace.
One of the victims, Salvador Lara, 55, was remembered by friends and relatives Friday as a dedicated worker and kind father who had made his way north from his hometown of Guanajuato, Mexico.
While Lara's widow, Carlota, was out making funeral arrangements, her sister spoke to reporters in front of the family's home in a quiet, working-class neighborhood in Norwalk. She described Lara as a generous father who had provided everything he could for his two sons, 24 and 30, and daughter, 25.
"We didn't feel that he deserved this because he was a very good person--very decent, very dedicated to his work," said Gloria Aguirre, Lara's sister-in-law. "He wanted to be a good provider for [his children] whenever they needed."
Lara put his children through private schools, then paid for his daughter's education at Cal State Fullerton, where she recently earned a bachelor's degree.
Lara came to the United States in 1963, Aguirre said, and quickly found a job and saved money to marry Carlota.
"He did what it took to survive here, to make a good living, before getting married," she said, adding that he and Carlota had been married for 32 years.
For 21 years, her next-door neighbors had shared "nothing but happiness," said Claire Apodaca. "I couldn't believe [Lara] had one enemy in the world," she said. "Nobody would hurt that man. He was too nice."
Ahmad Mardak, a 39-year-old quality assurance engineer from Newhall, was also killed. His family declined to be interviewed.
On Friday, four other victims remained hospitalized for gunshot wounds, including LaWana Bryant, a 33-year-old administrative assistant from Downey, who was in critical condition. Doctors said her condition was improving. She was the first person Marsden shot before firing his 9-millimeter semiautomatic throughout the office and warehouse.
Salesman Michael Gann, 30, of Thousand Oaks, was in fair condition and Daniel St. George, an engineering manager from Santa Fe Springs, remained in serious condition. James Lauerman, a quality assurance engineer, was in serious but stable condition at an Anaheim hospital close to his home.
Families of the surviving victims kept vigil at hospitals Thursday night and wondered what provoked the violent attack.
"We're pretty much in shock," said Lauerman's son, Ken, whose father has worked at Omni for about four years. "We don't really know what to think about what happened. Never in my life would I expect to find out something like this. Everybody is just wondering, bewildered. Why? Why him?"
Marsden, described by some co-workers as quiet and withdrawn, left few clues to his past.
Omni executives said they hired him about a year ago as a quality control inspector, a job he performed without incident.
Court records show that Marsden was arrested for driving while intoxicated in 1988. Two years earlier, he was charged with assault and battery and disturbing the peace in Fullerton. He was eventually convicted of disturbing the peace and was fined and sentenced to 36 months probation, police said.
By mid-Friday, authorities were still trying to locate Marsden's relatives. Neighbors at his Long Beach apartment said they didn't know him well.
"Sadly, the fact that he killed himself pretty much puts an end to our investigation," Drylie said.
On Friday, bouquets of flowers were left at the door of Omni Plastics, a nondescript beige building in the middle of an orderly industrial park.
The office was closed for business, but employees filed in for counseling sessions throughout the day and company executives planned a memorial service for later next week. Customers and suppliers to the plastics manufacturing company faxed letters of support.
A trust fund for the victims was established by the company. Donations can be sent to Omni Plastics Victims Fund, 9834 Jordan Circle, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670.
Times staff writer Peter Y. Hong and correspondents Greg Sandoval and Debra Cano contributed to this report.