A UC Santa Barbara student from San Diego was left in disbelief after part of Friday’s deadly rampage in a Central California town place down the street from his front door in a shower of gunfire that he said “sounded like fireworks.”
John Sherman, a college sophomore and alumnus of Bonita Vista High School, was sitting at home when the commotion started.
“I heard a couple pops, and I didn't really think anything of it,” said Sherman.
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But as he scrolled through his Facebook feed, he saw more and more posts about shootings in various spots around his neighborhood.
Sherman said he didn’t know what to believe until he heard about ten police vehicles drive by his house.
"So I went outside to see what was going on, and there was this huge crime scene just a couple blocks from my house,” said Sherman. “So I went down to go see what it was, and the cops were telling all of us to stay inside, so I just went back inside."
He soon learned from news reports that a gunman, identified by authorities as 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, had driven his black BMW through the streets of the small college town, opening fire at people in front of a sorority house, in a deli and along the street.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Rodger killed three people and injured several others in the shooting rampage before getting into a gunfight with deputies and crashing his car.
Rodger was found dead in his vehicle from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Later, deputies discovered three additional men stabbed to death in Rodger’s apartment.
"I honestly couldn't believe it. I still can't really believe it,” said Sherman. “It's kind of one of those things that you see on TV and you never think it will actually happen to you, and then it happens.”
Another UCSB student, fourth-year Elliot Waniek, told NBC 7 he was in the school’s library when his best friend called to ask where he was.
“And he says, 'You need to stay there. There's been a shooting. My other roommate's ex-girlfriend just got shot at and she's hysterical,'" Waniek recounted.
Confused and freaked out, he went to the front of the library to ask two campus officers about the incident.
“I was like, ‘What do you mean? Like, are we on lockdown? Are you guys going to do anything?' And they were like, 'No, you can go home.' And I was like, 'Uh, what?'" said Waniek.
He opted to stay in the library for another hour and a half until he heard that police had taken those responsible into custody.
But when he tried to bike home, every way back was blocked by crime scenes.
“Literally, four or five different ways to get back to my house and I couldn't even get back,” Waniek said. “I had to cut through multiple parks and other people's houses just to get back to my home, and trying to bike as fast as I can because I don't really know what is going on.”
When he finally reached his home, he stayed glued to the news to learn what was happening. He said everyone around him essentially in lockdown, since one crime scene was just a block from his house.
Waniek told NBC 7 this is the worst incident in a hard year for UCSB.
"This whole year in general has been, you know, a terrible reputation for UCSB with the riots going on, and then there's been multiple stabbings and girls being raped,” he said.
And the “mass murder” has certainly shed a somber light on their upcoming graduation -- just three weeks away.
Neither Waniek nor Sherman said they knew any of the victims personally, but they both said everyone is still on edge in Isla Vista and at UCSB.
"I don't think anyone's every experienced anything like this in their entire lives. It's just a sad day for everybody," said Waniek.
UCSB students held a candlelight vigil Saturday night for the victims of rampage. More than 3,400 people RSVP’d to the event on Facebook.