Santa Barbara: A gunman killed six people in a drive-by shooting in a southern California college town, spraying bullets from his car until it crashed and he was found dead inside, authorities said yesterday.
Seven other people were wounded in what the Santa Barbara County sheriff described as a premeditated atrocity. The attack took place late on Friday in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Witnesses reported seeing someone driving a black BMW through the streets and shooting at people in Isla Vista, a beachside community where many college students live.
Robert Johnson, a 21-year-old UCSB student, said the car drove past him at a busy Isla Vista intersection and that he heard “popping noises” that he originally mistook for firecrackers or the car backfiring.
“Then the sound came again, and by that point it had pulled up in front of a convenience store deli, and someone in the car was firing into a crowd of about eight, 10 people that were gathered in front of the store,” he said.
“Everyone that was being fired upon, they all jumped and scrambled to run inside the store,” he said.
The car had darkly tinted windows and the occupant was not visible, Johnson said. Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said a semi-automatic handgun had been recovered from what he called a “mass murder situation.”
“We currently have seven people confirmed dead. That includes the suspect and six victims,” he told a televised news conference. Officials did not identify the suspect.
Brown said deputies twice exchanged fire with the suspected gunman before his vehicle crashed and he was found inside, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
He could not immediately say whether the man was killed by deputies in the exchange of fire or died of a self-inflicted wound. It is also not known whether he was a UCSB student.
“It’s obviously the work of a madman,” the sheriff said of the shooting. “There’s going to be a lot more information that will come out that will give a clearer picture of just how disturbed this individual was.”
He said authorities were investigating a video tape posted on YouTube that appeared to be have been made by the suspect. “It would appear that is connected,” Brown said.
The video shows a young man complaining of loneliness and rejection by women, and threatening a mass slaughter of college students and Isla Vista residents.
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was not releasing any details about the conditions of the wounded.
The victims’ identities were being withheld pending notification of their families, the sheriff said. About 10 minutes elapsed between the first 911 calls to emergency services and the suspected gunman being found dead in his car, Brown said at the news conference.
College student Brad Martin told a UCSB student newspaper that his girlfriend was “absolutely hysterical” after being approached by the gunman with a weapon she initially was not sure was real.