An acrimonious divorce and custody dispute may have played a role in a brutal shooting spree at a Seal Beach hair salon that left eight people dead Wednesday, according to witnesses and former co-workers.
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A ninth person is in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
Authorities later released the identity of the suspect, 42-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai of Huntington Beach. Shortly after the shooting, police arrested a Dekraai, who was stopped by police about a half mile away, driving a white 2005 Toyota Pickup truck. According to police, he said he had multiple weapons with him.
Witnesses had previously identified Dekraai as the man police arrested.
The alleged gunman was reportedly angry with his ex-wife over custody of their 7-year-old son, according to witnesses. He opened fire around 1:30 p.m. at the Salon Meritage in the 500 block of Pacific Coast Highway.
Westminster Police, who are assisting in the investigation, are obtaining a search warrant for a Huntington Beach home where Dekraai lived with his second wife. Friends said the suspect's son visited often.
Witnesses said that at the time of the shooting the salon was filled with patrons and employees.
Lydia Oliver, a salon customer, said the shooter matched the description of Dekraai, her friend's ex-husband. When she heard about the shooting, she called her friend immediately.
"When I found out, I tried to call her cell to say, 'please don't tell me it's you,'" Oliver said. "I haven't got a call back, so… and she was working today."
Lydia Sosa, a former co-worker of at least one of the victims, said there was a years-long history of "a lot of strife" between Dekraai and his ex-wife, the woman he reportedly targeted. "I just didn’t think it would happen like this, years later," Sosa said "It’s just unfathomable."
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Zach Benson, who was working at a nearby restaurant, said when the shooting started, patrons ran outside and could not believe what they saw.
"It just caught everyone off guard," Benson said. "It was a very bizarre scene."
Six victims were found dead inside the salon. Three others were taken to Long Beach Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Two later died, said Sgt. Steve Bowles of the Seal Beach Police Department.
Several people who were inside the salon during the shooting escaped the massacre unharmed.
The suspect, described as a heavy-set, bearded white male, was detained in a white Toyota pickup truck about a half-mile from the scene during a traffic stop. Witnesses said police recovered several guns from the truck.
The suspect, who did not resist arrest, may have been wearing body armor and other protective clothing at the time of the arrest, according to police.
"We feel very confident we have the single and only suspect in custody," Bowles said.
Neighbors of Dekraai were stunned by the news, calling the suspect a "friendly fellow" and saying he was not known for violence.
"I looked online and I said, 'I know that guy,' and I looked at the truck and I said, 'I know the truck,' " said neighbor Patty Kazempor.
"I had no idea anything like this would come from Scott," said neighbor Clayton Cornhall. "He was always a nice guy. My dad passed a couple of years ago, he'd come over and help out. He actually took the trash out for me a couple of times."
Relatives of victims were being taken to a nearby spiritual center.
"Our primary mission now is to support these families," Bowles said.
The Salon Meritage is described as a reasonably priced salon that opened its doors to the beachside community in 1990. It offers a variety of hair services and make-up consultation, according to Yelp reviewers.
The city logged one homicide in 2010 and none during the previous three years, according to statistics compiled by the police department.