8 dead in Calif. salon shooting; Suspect held
Investigators stand near a salon where eight people were killed in Seal Beach, Calif., Oct. 12, 2011. / AP
SEAL BEACH, Calif. - Eight people were killed and one critically wounded Wednesday when a gunman opened fire in a busy hair salon, leaving victims' bodies scattered throughout the business in a normally sedate Southern California beach community.
The gunman got into a car and drove away from Salon Meritage. He was stopped by officers about a half-mile away and surrendered without incident, said police Sgt. Steve Bowles.
Multiple weapons were found in the vehicle and KTLA-TV reports that the suspect was wearing body armor at the time of his arrest.
His name was not immediately released.
Police were struggling to determine the motive for the killings.
"There may be something to the motive as to a relationship with somebody in the salon, that is our assumption," Bowles said.
Seal Beach has seen just one other homicide in the past four years.
Six of the victims were killed at the scene of the shooting, while two others who were critically wounded later died at area hospitals.
Bowles said the victims' bodies were scattered throughout the salon. One wounded person, a man, was found outside the building. It wasn't clear if he was trying to flee when he was shot.
"We're unsure at this point if he shot from the entrance and people, as they were shot, ran in seeking cover or seeking shelter, but we have fatalities throughout the salon," Bowles told reporters at a news conference outside the business.
"From my observation, it did look like people were seeking shelter at the time," he said.
He said the salon was busy at the time, with every hair-dressing station in operation.
He didn't know what type of weapon was used or if the man used more than one.
Salon employee Lorainne Bruielle, who wasn't working Wednesday, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram the gunman was the husband of another employee.
Bruielle said she talked to the husband of one of the employees involved, who said one employee locked herself in the salon's facial room and was unharmed while another man locked himself in a bathroom but was wounded.
The suspect was cooperative when officers, following a description of the shooter, stopped him nearby. He told them he had multiple weapons in his car, Bowles said.
The killings stunned this normally quiet community of about 25,000 that boasts on its website that it has "retained its quaint, small-town atmosphere" since it was founded in 1915.
Several visibly distressed people stood near the scene talking on cellphones or to police shortly after the shootings. They declined to be interviewed.
"All I heard was a siren and then after that one of my co-workers got a phone call from her nephew. He was outdoors when the suspect got into his truck and took off," said Cindy Spinosa, 51, who works at a nearby business.
"It's a little disarming," she said. "This is such a quiet community. We don't expect things like this."
Relatives of victims in the salon shooting were being taken to a nearby spiritual center.
"Obviously, a crime of this magnitude is something that Seal Beach is not familiar with," Bowles told reporters.
The quiet beachfront city is home to Leisure World, a gated senior citizen community of 9,000 people, as well as the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station military complex. Two-thirds of the city's 13.23 square miles are occupied by the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge.
The most common crime reported in Seal Beach last year was larceny, with 368 cases reported. There were four rapes reported in 2010, up from two the previous year. There were six robberies, up from 11 the previous year, and 71 assaults, down from 89 the previous year.
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