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Santa Monica College reopens after deadly rampage

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News,California

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -- Santa Monica College reopened Monday under extra security -- except for the library, where police had shot and killed a heavily armed gunman after a rampage that left five victims dead.

Students returned for final exams and to retrieve backpacks, cars and other belongings left behind Friday during the attack.

Counselors were on hand and a candlelight vigil was planned for Monday evening in front of the library.

Kelly Williams, 19, said she was nervous about coming to campus to take a psychology final but felt better once she saw a police car parked outside.

"It's kind of scary because it just happened and you don't know if it will happen again," she said.

Kurtis Takmura, 20, said he was driving to the campus on Friday to study for a history exam when he got a message from the school to stay away.

"I was like, wow, the second time already in the same semester," the Torrance resident said, recalling a similar message during a May incident involving a telephone threat.

Investigators were trying to determine why John Zawahri, 23, killed his father and older brother in a home near campus and left the house in flames. He also fired at a car, wounding the driver, took another motorist hostage, and forced her to drive as he shot at people and a bus in the neighborhood, authorities said.

A woman was shot in the head on campus before Zawahri was shot and killed by police. A total of five victims were gunned down in fewer than 15 minutes.

Debra Fine was wounded when Zawahri opened fire on her car. She said the attacker had spiky hair, black clothing, ballistics vest -- and a cold, intense stare.

There was "no hesitation, no flick of a muscle, nothing. Just absolutely staring and going onto the next step," Fine recalled. "I just simply got in his way. And he needed to kill me. That was it."

She recognized the eyes in a 2006 high school yearbook photo of Zawahri shown to her by The Associated Press.

Investigators were trying to determine whether Zawahri had mental health issues that might have sparked the rampage.

Authorities said the killing began as a domestic violence attack when Zawahri killed his father, Samir, 55, and brother, Christopher, 24, in their home near Interstate 10 in a working-class part of town a few miles from the beachside attractions that draw tourists year-round.

The gunman, carrying a duffel bag with 1,300 rounds of ammo, fired shots in the neighborhood then took his rampage on the road.

Fine was the first stranger shot. She was using side streets to avoid traffic from President Barack Obama's visit three miles away when the gunman motioned with his rifle at the car in front of her to pull over.

Fine thought the man was providing security for the president's visit. Then he pointed the rifle at the woman and started to yell.

Upset that he would yell at someone who cooperated, Fine accelerated.

The shooter walked toward her, shooting again. Fine was hit in the shoulder, arm and ear, and she lay on the passenger seat, pretending to be dead. Zawahri, meanwhile, carjacked the woman he had stopped and directed her to Santa Monica College, firing at bystanders along the way and shooting up a city bus.

At the college, he blasted a Ford Explorer driven by Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, killing the driver and his daughter, Marcela Franco, 26, who died Sunday. The father was a longtime groundskeeper at the college and was taking his daughter to buy textbooks for summer classes.

On foot, Zawahri headed for the library, spraying gunfire around campus as students, who were in the middle of final exams, took cover in classrooms or bolted for their lives. He fatally shot one woman in the head and then casually strolled past a cart of books into the library where he fired 70 shots without striking anyone.

In a shootout with three police officers, Zawahri was struck multiple times. His body was taken outside, where he was pronounced dead.

The elder Zawahri brought his family to the neighborhood of small homes and apartment buildings tucked up against Interstate 10 in the mid-1990s, according to property records.

Not long after arriving on Yorkshire Avenue, Samir Zawahri and his wife Randa Abdou, 54, went through a difficult divorce and split custody of their two boys, said Thomas O'Rourke, a neighbor. When the sons got older, one went to live with his mother while the other stayed with the father.

Public records show Abdou, who lives in an apartment a couple miles away, was the ex-wife of Samir Zawahri and former co-owner of the house where the first shooting took place.

Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the gunman was enrolled at Santa Monica College in 2010.

Home from the hospital on Sunday, Fine recalled the moments after she was shot. Neighbors had come to help her, one holding towels to her wounds. Fifteen minutes later paramedics arrived.

"When I got ... into the trauma room and I heard one of the doctors say, 'Two more have arrived but they're DOA,' that's when I realized that this was part of something bigger, and that his intent had been to kill people," Fine said. "I'm just, I feel very, very lucky to be here."

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Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed to this story. Tami Abdollah can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/latams

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