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Santa Monica gunman strapped ammo to chest, thighs, sources say

June 10, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein

The gunman who killed five people in a Santa Monica shooting rampage was armed with more than three dozen large-capacity ammunition magazines, sources familiar with the investigation said Monday.

The ammunition was strapped to his body -- including his chest and thighs -- as well as in pouches in his clothing and protective vest. More ammunition was found in a black bag.

John Zawahri, 23, had approximately 40 magazines each capable of holding 30 bullets. Authorities say they do not have a precise count of the number of rounds used by the former Santa Monica College student but said it was expected to be more than 1,000.

The bag also contained parts for an assault rifle known as an "upper receiver," which could be switched out if they failed, sources said.

Zawahri primarily used an AR-15-type semiautomatic rifle to fire repeatedly at people and vehicles between his home where authorities say he shot and killed his father and brother, then on city streets and eventually on campus, where he died in a gun battle with police.

Sources familiar with the case said Zawahri also had a .45-caliber handgun in the black bag.

Authorities have been attempting to trace the two firearms and where Zawahri obtained such a large inventory of ammunition.

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

Investigators are trying to determine how he got the weapons.

A federal law enforcement source said Monday that authorities are in the process of tracing two firearms used by Zawahri in the rampage.

One firearm, described as a “black powder handgun,” was believed to be a “curio- or relic-type” weapon that may have been in his family for some time.

“It’s an old-time gun,” the official said. The other weapon was described as a semiautomatic rifle.

Authorities also are tracing where Zawahri obtained such a large inventory of ammunition.

“We’ve been at his house, going through his computer too,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the case was ongoing.

[Updated at 7:06 p.m.: Zawahri's mother Randa Abdu issued a statement Monday through a neighbor: 

"As may be assumed, I am in mourning for my family and those who were also affected by this horrific tragedy over the past few days. I cannot express my great sadness for the families who are also suffering at this terrible time. I do ask the media to please give me time to grieve and come to grips with the overwhelming sorrow. This has befallen all of us."]

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Twitter: @anblanx |Facebook | Google +

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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