Victims of Santa Monica Shootings Remembered

Margarita Gomez was the fifth victim to be identified after Friday's shootings

By Jonathan Lloyd, Jason Kandel, Nyree Arabian, Gordon Tokumatsu and Beverly White
|  Tuesday, Jun 11, 2013  |  Updated 7:45 AM CDT
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The community mourned the victims of the Santa Monica shootings, on the streets, and at a ceremony at Santa Monica College. Beverly White reports from Santa Monica on NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Monday, June 10, 2013.

The community mourned the victims of the Santa Monica shootings, on the streets, and at a ceremony at Santa Monica College. Beverly White reports from Santa Monica on NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Monday, June 10, 2013.

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Fifth Victim Identified in Santa Monica Shootings

A fifth victim was identified Monday in a shooting that left six people, including the gunman, dead. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Monday June 10, 2013.
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Mourners gathered Monday at Santa Monica College to remember the five victims killed when a gunman opened fire Friday on and around the campus.

"Tonight, we mourn," said Chiu L. Tsang, Santa Monica College president, told hundreds gathered at a ceremony. "The tragedies that took place could not be more poignant, more painful and more real for us."

Margarita Gomez, a Santa Monica resident, was identified Monday as the fifth victim. She was not a student, but was often seen on campus and well-known to students, said Albert Vasquez, chief of the Santa Monica College Police Department.

Full Coverage: Rampage in Santa Monica

The 68-year-old was shot in the abdomen and chest, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said.

"We know that she didn't leave in peace, but we know that she didn't suffer," said Janette Torres, granddaughter of Margarita Gomez.

Gomez's relatives said she often collected recyclables at the campus as to raise money for her church.

Survivors of the attack also bear scars, said Gabriel Crenshaw, a clinical psychologist.

"They were the last that the shooter was going for. It was six of them in a room and he was shooting at the lock. (Police) came in just in time before he got inside the room," Crenshaw said.

Chief Vasquez called Gomez a "part of the Santa Monica College community," always friendly and greeting people with a smile.

Students and staff said they would often see Gomez collecting recyclables on campus, where a memorial for Gomez continued to grow Monday evening (pictured below).

"She was a hard-working woman," said friend Gloria Villareal-Esqueva. Gomez cared for Villareal-Esqueva's mother, who had been dying of cancer.

"She would take care of my mom, and she would also clean the house and make ends meet," Villareal-Esqueva said.

Another friend, Gloria Ayala, described Gomez as an engaging, chatty woman, who always liked to sit with her and trade stories and jokes. They would get together weekly, taking the bus around town, enjoying the sunny weather.

The gunman, identified as John Samir Zawahri, was shot and killed by police after a rampage that began just before noon Friday with a shooting and fire in a Santa Monica neighborhood. Two people were found dead inside the house.

They were identified as Zawahri's father, Samir, 55, and brother, Christopher, 24. The elder Zawahri suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Christopher Zawahri suffered one gunshot wound to the chest, the coroner's office said.

The violence continued with a nearby carjacking, and the gunman firing randomly at people and vehicles on city streets and the campus of Santa Monica College, where he was killed by police, authorities said.

One campus police officer and two Santa Monica Police Department officers were involved in the shooting of the gunman, Vasquez said.

An autopsy for John Zawahri was scheduled for Monday.

Two others, father and daughter, Carlos and Marcela Franco, were also killed in the rampage. They were in an SUV leaving the school after picking up Marcela Franco's books for summer classes when the gunman shot at their SUV.

Carlos Franco was shot in the face and neck. His 26-year-old daughter was hospitalized with grave wounds and was taken off life support over the weekend, the family said.

Monday marked the first time many students had been to the campus since the rampage.

"I went to church. I prayed this morning," said student Ericka Lesley. "I had family members pray for me just for our safety. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to take a final."

Flowers had been placed outside the school's library, which remained closed Monday morning and would remain closed until officers complete their investigation, Vasquez said.

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