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Santa Monica shooting: Police still trying to reach gunman's kin

June 09, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein, Richard A. Serrano and Louis Sahagun

Authorities probing the shooting rampage in Santa Monica that left six people dead were trying get some answers from the guman's mother, who was out of the country at the time of the incident.

Authorities have not officially named the gunman who was killed by police but law enforcement sources in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles identified him as John Zawahri, 23. Police said Saturday they were still trying to reach his next-of-kin but did not specifically mention his mother.

Several of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Zawahri had struggled with his parents' bitter divorce. He also had a history of mental issues, the sources said, but they could not be more specific.

Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said Saturday that the department had dealt with the gunman in connection with an incident in 2006 but would not provide details because he was a juvenile at the time.

Source say Zawahri first killed his father, Samir Zawahri, 55, and brother, Chris, 25,  before going on the rampage.

The mother was identified by sources as Randa Abdou.

Zawahri's parents had been divorced for years, neighbors said. Court records show two divorce filings, one in 1993 by Samir Zawahri and a second noting domestic violence and filed by Abdou in 1998.

The family moved into a Santa Monica home in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue about two decades ago, neighbors said. After the couple split up, Abdou eventually settled into an apartment about two miles away with son Chris. John had remained with his father.

Mykel Denis, who lives in Abdou's apartment complex, described her as a pleasant woman of Lebanese descent who lived with an "angry" son whose voice boomed when he became upset. Denis said he would often hear the man through the walls "yelling, screaming and cursing," and that often the loud outburst occurred when the man was home alone.

Another neighbor, Beverly Meadows, described Abdou as a slight woman who moved into the second-floor apartment next door about five years ago. Abdou, she said, was on a one-month vacation in Lebanon and due back in Los Angeles sometime next week.

"She's a lovely woman," Meadows said. "Petite, sweet, quiet, brunet and classy — with a crazy kid."

A few miles away, Abdou's co-workers at the Rose Cafe in Venice — one of two waitressing jobs she holds — struggled Saturday to cope with the shootings.

"All I can think about are Randa's loving ways," said fellow waitress Nicole Derseweh, 30, tears in her eyes. "She's playful and funny, and always singing Top 40 tunes.... I never saw her cry. She never talked about her kids."

Seabrooks said the gunman was "connected" with Santa Monica College in 2010 but did not say whether he was a student.

Police said the rampage lasted about 10 minutes, with the gunman cutting a sharp, bloody path through normally quiet streets. It ended when Zawahri, who'd been firing a semiautomatic rifle, was shot on the campus.

"Any time someone puts on a vest of some sort, comes out with a bag full of loaded magazines … has a handgun and has a semiautomatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people and has to be killed at the hands of police," Seabrooks said, "… that's premeditated."

A close friend of the family, who asked not to be identified, said that Zawahri struggled with mental health problems. "John had a fascination with guns," said the friend. "We were all worried about it."

The friend said Zawahri didn't have a job and that "everyone is wondering where he got the money for the weapons."

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