SEAL BEACH, Calif. - When a gunman burst through the door at Salon Meritage Wednesday, one woman having her hair colored thought it was a Halloween prank.
But the gunman went up to a woman stylist and fired, the customer, a woman who gave her name only as Cindy, told the Orange County Register.
The gunman kept shooting, sending terrified customers diving for cover in the upscale salon tucked just blocks from the beach in this quaint seaside town. The man shot a woman who was having her hair shampooed, and then shot the salon owner, who was coloring Cindy's hair, she said.
The shooter then stepped outside, shot a man sitting in a truck in the parking lot and sped off.
"I just kept hearing boom, boom, boom, boom," Cindy said. "I ran out. I didn't see his face. I just saw the gun in his hand and him shoot (everybody)."
Cindy said she ran next door to another business, where she went into the bathroom, closed the door and turned out the light.
"There was like a 'pop pop' ... and my receptionist screamed out, 'He just shot that man' and we all went into the bathroom and called 911," said Kimberly Criswell, who owns a salon two doors away and knew many hairstylists at Salon Meritage. "I'm sure I've lost some friends today."
Six women and two men died. Their identities were not officially released, but owner Randy Fannin's niece, Tami Scarcella, told the Los Angeles Times her uncle was among the dead.
It was the worst mass shooting in Orange County history since July 12, 1976, when custodian Edward Allaway killed seven people and wounded two others at California State University, Fullerton. Allaway was convicted of murder but later found to be insane.
Police arrested 42-year-old Scott Dekraai about a half-mile from the scene. He did not struggle, police said. The gunman wore body armor and had several guns, police and witnesses said.
Police did not release a motive for the shooting. However, court records and acquaintances said he and his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier Dekraai, of Huntington Beach, who worked at the salon as a licensed cosmetologist, had been locked in a bitter custody battle over their son since he filed for divorce in 2007.
It was unclear whether Fournier was among those killed.
Fournier had claimed in court filings in May that Dekraai was unstable and physically abusive to her during their marriage.
She said Dekraai was "almost manic" when it came to decisions about their son and asked the court to decline his request for more time with the boy.
A woman who was wounded in the rampage remained in critical condition Thursday, police said. Sgt. Steve Bowles said the woman was showing some signs of improvement. Her name was not released.
The crime scene tape around the salon was gone early Thursday, with blinds on the side windows drawn and black plastic bags taped over the front windows and door.
A memorial to the victims early Thursday started with two candles, some pink Hybiscus blooms and a handwritten poem called "The Day After."
Written on line notebook paper and signed only Laurie, it was "dedicated to all who lost and a most precious Seal Beach that didn't deserve this carnage."
Mary Stearns of Huntington Beach came by to show her respects and leave a red candle. She knew Fannin, the salon owner, for more than 30 years, following him to three different salons over the years to get her hair done every eight weeks.
"I was going to have him over for Christmas. I just saw him on Saturday. I had a bottle of wine I brought back from Australia. He loved wine," she said.
Glenn Zachman, who owns a video news-gathering service, said he arrived at the scene of the arrest shortly after police and saw they had placed plastic bags over the man's hands to preserve possible gunshot residue.
The man, in handcuffs, was placed in a patrol car and taken away about two-and-a-half hours after the shooting. A new white pickup truck that was believed to be his was parked on the modest residential street with its doors open.
The man was cooperative when officers, working from a description of the shooter, stopped him near the salon, Bowles said.
Shortly after he was arrested, police arrived at a house on Melody Lane in nearby Huntington Beach and escorted two women to a white car and then roped off the house with crime scene tape. The house is registered to Scott Dekraai.
Lydia Sosa, a hairstylist who left two years ago to work at a new business with her friend, said the gunman's ex-wife spoke often of her relationship problems.
"They had been having bitter problems for years and I guess he just went in there and started shooting," Sosa said.