Jerry Cunningham-Rathner heard gunshots outside her Santa Monica home and emerged to see a gunman clad in SWAT-like apparel and a neighbor's home in flames. The gunman then shot a driver and carjacked another vehicle. The incident is believed to be connected to shootings at Santa Monica College. NBC4’s Michelle Valles reports from Santa Monica on June 7, 2013. Click here for NBC4's full coverage of the Santa Monica rampage.
Dozens of bystanders were caught in the chaos of a shooting spree in Santa Monica Friday that left five people dead and a mile-wide crime scene in its wake.
The violence started at a burning home in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue before traveling down Pico Boulevard toward Santa Monica College, where a gunman was killed in the school library, police said.
A shooter – described as a white male in his late 20s clad in tactical gear – opened fire on a woman outside the burning home then carjacked a female driver, who drove him toward the two-year college about a mile away.
Bus passenger and student Marta Fagerstroem told NBC4 she was studying on a bus traveling along Pico Boulevard when a gunman opened fire on the transit vehicle. The gunman came out of the passenger side of a car, she said.
"This guy just stepped out with a big rifle," Fagerstroem said.
A woman on the bus was hit and was bleeding from her head, she said. A spokesman for UCLA Medical Center said the woman was in good condition with a flesh wound and was likely hit by shrapnel.
“Everyone threw themselves on the floor, screams,” passenger Fagerstroem said. “The bus driver, she panicked. She couldn’t drive away. She was able to, after a while.”
The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus had several visible bullet holes. There were reports of injuries involving bus passengers, said CHP Officer Kerri Rivas, a department spokeswoman.
Before the shooter made his way to campus, neighbors spotted him outside a burning home they say he shared with his family.
Jerry Cunningham-Rathner said she heard gunshots and ran out of her home to see a man in front of a house across the street -- and the house was on fire.
Two cars slowed to a stop, and the gunman walked over to them, indicating a blue Mazda hatchback should pull over. He motioned to the second car to keep driving, Cunningham-Rathner said.
"He looked official, like a SWAT team guy, dressed in black with his belt full of ammo,” Cunningham-Rathner said. "You could smell the gunshots."
When the driver of the second car hesitated, the gunman fired two to three shots point blank into her car, Cunningham-Rathner said. Authorities said a woman from that scene was hospitalized.
Cunningham-Rathner ran into her home to call 911. When she came back outside, the gunman had gotten into the blue Mazda’s passenger seat and the female driver was pulling away in an apparent carjacking.
Authorities Friday night said a total of five people -- four victims and a lone gunman -- died in the shooting spree.