SWAT officers at scene of LA shooting 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A gunman dressed in black killed four people in a string of shootings through the seaside California town of Santa Monica on Friday before he was shot dead by police in a community college library, law enforcement officials said.
Five other people were wounded, one of them critically, in the shooting rampage that unfolded just a few miles from where President Barack Obama was speaking at a political fundraiser elsewhere in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles.
As the gunman lay dead on a sidewalk outside the Santa Monica College library, a second individual was taken into custody near the campus and described by police as a "person of interest" in the case. He was later released.
Police initially said six people were killed by the gunman.
Obama completed his remarks at his event without interruption and left for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping near the desert resort community of Palm Springs. The bloodshed did not appear to be related to Obama's visit and the Secret Service called it a "local police matter."
The killing spree marked the latest in string of high-profile mass shootings over the past year, including a December attack in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school and a shooting last July at a suburban Denver movie theater that killed 12 people.
Those attacks have helped re-ignite a national debate over gun violence in America that spurred Obama and his fellow Democrats to push for expanded background checks for gun buyers - an initiative defeated in the U.S. Senate.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the shooting rampage began east of the college campus shortly before noon when police received multiple reports of a house fire, a carjacking and shootings in the area.
Police traded gunfire with the gunman outside the college and pursued him into a library, where he was shot and killed, Seabrooks said.
Earlier, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol told Reuters that officers received a report of a man armed with multiple weapons, including a shotgun, firing at passing cars and a bus at two locations near the college campus.
Students at the campus library described a scene of pandemonium as the sounds of gunfire rang out, sending some scurrying for cover.
One student inside the library, Cyrus Jabari, 19, said that through a window he could see a man dressed in black with a buzz-style haircut carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.
"The only thing between me and him was a glass door," he told Reuters.
Another witness told a CNN affiliate that he saw a man drive up in a car near the campus, walk into the middle of an intersection with a gun, and open fire at passing vehicles and a building before "he jumped back in the car and took off."
"It seemed like he was alone in his car," said the witness, who was not identified by name. The witness said that he took cover under the dashboard of his car, which was struck by gunfire. "I saw him jumping out of the car. He had a big, black gun in his hand and he just started blasting maybe 10 rounds from the left to the right."
Obama had been attending a fundraising event at the Santa Monica home of former News Corp President Peter Chernin at about the time of the shooting and had just finished his remarks. He made no mention of the incident.
A Secret Service spokesman in Washington said: "We are aware of the incident and it is not impacting the visit. It's a local police matter at this point."
Obama's departure from Los Angeles was re-routed to avoid impacting the scene, a White House press secretary said.