THIS REPORT HAS BEEN UPDATED:
SEAL BEACH, Calif. (The Blaze/AP) A gunman opened fire Wednesday in a busy hair salon, killing eight people and critically wounding another while leaving bodies scattered throughout the business in a normally sedate Southern California beach community.
The gunman got into a car and drove away from Salon Meritage after opening fire about 1:30 p.m. He was stopped by officers about a half-mile away and surrendered without incident, said police Sgt. Steve Bowles.
His name was not immediately released.
Police were struggling to determine the motive for the killings.
“There may be something to the motive as to a relationship with somebody in the salon, that is our assumption,” Bowles said.
Seal Beach has seen just one other homicide in the past four years.
Police responding to a report of shots fired found six people dead and three wounded. Two of those three died at a hospital. The other person was listed in critical condition.
Bowles said bodies of the victims were scattered throughout the salon, along with two of the wounded. The other wounded person, a man, was found outside the building. It wasn’t clear if he was trying to flee when he was shot or if he was the one survivor.
“We’re unsure at this point if he shot from the entrance and people, as they were shot, ran in seeking cover or seeking shelter, but we have fatalities throughout the salon,” Bowles told reporters at a news conference outside the business.
“From my observation, it did look like people were seeking shelter at the time,” he said.
He said the salon was busy at the time, with every hair-dressing station in operation.
He didn’t know what type of weapon was used or if the man used more than one.
Salon employee Lorainne Bruielle, who wasn’t working Wednesday, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram the gunman was the husband of another employee.
Bruielle said she talked to the husband of one of the employees involved, who said one employee locked herself in the salon’s facial room and was unharmed while another man locked himself in a bathroom but was wounded.
The suspect was cooperative when officers, following a description of the shooter, stopped him nearby. He told them he had multiple weapons in his car, Bowles said.
TV news video showed the man, in handcuffs, being placed in a patrol car and taken away about two-and-a-half hours after the shooting. A new white pickup truck that was believed to be his was parked on the modest residential street with its doors open.
The killings stunned this normally quiet community of about 25,000 that boasts on its website that it has “retained its quaint, small-town atmosphere” since it was founded in 1915.
Several visibly distressed people stood near the scene talking on cellphones or to police shortly after the shootings. They declined to be interviewed.
“All I heard was a siren and then after that one of my co-workers got a phone call from her nephew. He was outdoors when the suspect got into his truck and took off,” said Cindy Spinosa, 51, who works at a nearby business.
“It’s a little disarming,” she said. “This is such a quiet community. We don’t expect things like this.”
Relatives of victims in the salon shooting were being taken to a nearby spiritual center.
“Obviously, a crime of this magnitude is something that Seal Beach is not familiar with,” Bowles told reporters.
The quiet beachfront city is home to Leisure World, a gated senior citizen community of 9,000 people, as well as the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station military complex. Two-thirds of the city’s 13.23 square miles are occupied by the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge.
The most common crime reported in Seal Beach last year was larceny, with 368 cases reported. There were four rapes reported in 2010, up from two the previous year. There were six robberies, up from 11 the previous year, and 71 assaults, down from 89 the previous year.