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Final Santa Monica shooting victim identified

June 10, 2013|By Kate Mather and Matt Stevens
  • Rafael Torres, son of Santa Monica College shooting victim Margarita Gomez, lights candles he brought Monday morning to a memorial near the site where his mother was killed.
Rafael Torres, son of Santa Monica College shooting victim Margarita Gomez,… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

The final victim in the Santa Monica College shooting rampage collected recyclables on campus to help "pay the bills," her son said Monday.

Margarita Gomez, 68, was identified by officials Monday. She was among six people killed in Friday's 10-minute shooting rampage, which officials said began at gunman John Zawahri's home and ended at the college's library. Gomez was shot outside the library.

Zawahri was shot and killed by police.

Santa Monica College spokesman Don Girard called Gomez a "neighbor" to the school, stressing that she never broke campus rules and was well-liked by groundskeepers.

"She honored the code," he stressed.

Rafael Torres said his mother worked at a ceramics company for nearly two decades but didn’t get much of a pension and did what she could to pay the bills.

“Around the college, everybody knows her,” Torres, 39, said. “Nobody knows her name because she never got in trouble. She was the lady with the cans.”

For the last two years, he said, she walked the campus each morning and afternoon -- but usually not on Fridays.

“She never goes Fridays,” he said. “And this Friday she went. I don’t know why.”

Torres said he heard about the shooting on the news and couldn’t reach his mother on the phone. Still, he said, he didn’t think she was hurt.

“Still I cannot believe it,” he said. “I think she’s going to come back.”

Torres said his mother grew up in Mexico but lived in Santa Monica for about 28 years. She loved the city and her church, he said, and was well-liked.

“She loves to help people,” he said.

She also loved her grandchildren, he said.

Torres said his mother’s home near 19th Street and Pico Boulevard -- right next to the campus -- has been flooded by visitors. The answering machine was full of messages, he said.

“The hardest thing is we could not say, ‘I love you, Mom,’ before she died,” he said. “We never thought it was going to be a bullet.”

The other victims in Friday's rampage were Zawahri’s father, Samir, 55; his brother, Chris, 25; Santa Monica College groundskeeper Carlos Franco, 68; and Franco’s daughter, Marcela, 26.


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