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Santa Monica shootings: Death toll rises as fifth victim dies

June 09, 2013|By Kim Christensen

Santa Monica College on Sunday announced the death of 26-year-old student Marcela Franco, making her the fifth victim to die from Friday's shooting rampage.

"I am saddened to report that Marcela Franco passed away this morning at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center," Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang said in a statement posted on the school's website. "Her family was with her by her side. Marcela had registered to attend classes this summer at SMC and was with her father Carlos when Friday’s tragedy struck."

"Our deepest sympathies go to the Franco family. At the appropriate time, the college will convene a campus-wide memorial. We will provide details going forward."

Franco's 68-year-old father, Carlos, a groundskeeper at the college, was also killed in Friday's shootings. They were driving to the school when a gunman opened fire on them during a rampage that left three others dead.

The gunman, John Zawahri, 23, was later killed by police during a confrontation in the college's library.

The Santa Monica College Foundation has started the Carlos Franco Family Memorial Fund.

“Carlos was truly a family man,” Tsang wrote in a letter to the campus community. “He was a dedicated husband and father and an integral part of the Santa Monica College family. His dedicated work to the campus grounds was enjoyed by students and visitors for two decades. He will be sorely missed.”

Carlos Franco was driving Marcela to campus to buy books for her summer classes at the college when Zawahri fired at their Ford Explorer.

The elder Franco died at the scene.

Police said the 10-minute rampage began just before noon Friday, at a house on Yorkshire Avenue that was set on fire. Authorities later found the bodies of the gunman’s father, Samir Zawahri, 55, and brother, Chris, 25, inside.

By the time police caught up with John Zawahri at the college library, killing him in a shootout, the gunman had slain an unidentified woman outside the building and wounded several others along the way. Law enforcement sources described Zawahri as an emotionally troubled person who armed himself with high-powered weapons and may have had up to 1,300 rounds of ammunition.

In his letter to the college community Saturday, Tsang remembered Carlos Franco as a dedicated 22-year employee and quoted his supervisor, Tom Corpus, who described him as “a very, very hard worker.”

“He loved his job,” Corpus said. “He tried to make people happy and make sure he did the best job he could. He was all about his job. He was just a great asset to the college. Everything Carlos did was for the college and for his family.”

At the time of the shooting, Carlos and Marcela were on their way to meet his oldest daughter, Leticia, for a doctor’s appointment, Tsang wrote.

Franco is survived by his wife, Ramona, who works at Saint John’s Hospital Child Study Center, Tsang said, noting that a son died two summers ago in a traffic accident.

Donations to the Franco family memorial fund can be made online or by mail to the Santa Monica College Foundation, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

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kim.christensen@latimes.com

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