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Santa Monica gunman's mother: Shooting a 'horrific tragedy'

June 10, 2013|By Frank Shyong

The mother of the gunman who killed five people in Santa Monica on Friday released a statement Monday expressing "great sadness" for the rampage.

Randa Abdou released the statement through her 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."

Several law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the gunman, John Zawahri, 24, 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.

Sources say the rampage began in the Zawahri home when the gunman killed his father, Samir, 55, and brother, Chris, 25. Police arrived to find the home on fire and the two bodies inside.

A former teacher of Zawahri's said his mother told her she was the victim of domestic abuse.

Wendy Parise is a former Santa Monica preschool teacher who taught Zawahri when he was a young boy.

"He was my student. A very sweet, very quiet, very withdrawn child," she said in an interview with The Times.

Parise said Abdou approached her to say that her husband had held a knife to her throat.

"There was tremendous violence in the home," Parise said. "I was very concerned for this little boy and his mother. I can only imagine what this very quiet, withdrawn little boy was observing.... My heart just aches thinking about his life, all these years."

Zawahri's parents had been divorced for years, neighbors said. Court records show two divorce filings. One was filed in 1993 by Samir Zawahri. Another, noting domestic violence, was 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 in an apartment about two miles away with her son Chris. John 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 outbursts occurred when the man was home alone.

Another neighbor, Beverly Meadow, 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."

Abdou wrote in a 1998 application for a restraining order that after she and her husband first married, the couple were apart for five years until she moved to the United States from Lebanon to join him. She said the marital troubles started right away and that her husband was verbally abusive and controlling.

She said she moved out with the children in February 1998. Her husband followed her and struck her and took the children without telling her, she wrote.

Samir Zawahri "said that he would do anything to make my life miserable and that he could kill me and no restraining order can stop him," she wrote.

When he saw her with a male friend two months after their separation, he became violent and threatened: "If I had a gun it would be over," she wrote. He pulled her hair and punched her, took her purse and divorce papers but left when police arrived, according to the declaration. She said she did not press charges because she was afraid of enraging him further.

"The defendant [Samir Zawahri] has told me that life means nothing to him if we are not together," she wrote.

The temporary retraining order was never served, according to records.

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