At least six people were killed as a gunman went on a rampage in Southern California, before being shot down by the police at a college library, some three miles away from where U.S. President Barack Obama was attending a fundraiser.
According to Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, the gunman was 25 to 30 years old and dressed all in black, wearing what appeared to be a ballistic jacket.
Another person of interest is said to be in police custody.
“We are not convinced 100 per cent that the suspect who was killed operated in a solo or alone capacity,” Seabrooks said at a hurriedly convened news conference.
It was not immediately clear where all the deceased victims were killed. In all six people — all women — were taken to two hospitals, including two in critical condition, one of whom died, local media reported.
Seabrooks said there were at least six incidents across the city ending in the Santa Monica College.
An eyewitness on the college campus, Jason Garrett, told CNN the suspected shooter was dressed in black and appeared to be wearing a tactical vest and carrying a rifle.
A female witness said she heard a noise, realized it was a gunshot and then took off running. Then, in a hallway, she saw a dark-haired man whom she initially mistook for a police officer but later realized was the shooter.
The man — who she said was wearing black combat boots and what appeared to be a bullet-proof vest — was quiet and walking casually. “(He had) a big shotgun,” the woman told the CNN.
Jeff Furrows of the Santa Monica Fire Department said there was extensive fire damage at a house near the college, and one of the wounded women was found with a gunshot wound in a car nearby.
Jerry Cunningham Rathner, who lives near the house, said she heard gunshots and came out onto her porch to see a man shooting at the residence. Soon, the building erupted in flames and was billowing smoke, Fox News reported.
“He fired three to four shots into the car — boom, boom, boom, right at her,” said Rathner, who went to the woman’s aid and saw she was wounded in the shoulder.
The alleged gunman abducted the woman in the first car and drove away, Rathner said. From there, the scene shifted to Santa Monica College, where the gunman was eventually shot dead.
Nearby schools and campuses were put on lockdown, police said amid confusion over whether an additional gunman could be at large.
Mr. Obama, on his way to a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, was in Santa Monica speaking at a Democratic fundraiser several miles from the scene of the shooting.
The U.S. president, who had been due to fly back to Los Angeles airport, instead went in a motorcade, to avoid any impact on police action around the shootings, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.