I’m so saddened by this Seal Beach shooting event and outraged that something so horrible could happen in such a safe and beautiful community like Seal Beach. Our town is so safe you take for granted the need for security and safety for your home, business and loved ones. As a matter of fact people still leave their windows opened and doors unlocked when not at home.
Details emerged Wednesday evening into the background of the suspected gunman responsible for the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. The rampage left eight people dead and another in critical condition in the coastal city of Seal Beach, a usually quiet community in Orange County.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the suspect, 42-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a 2007 boating accident, court records said.
Dekraai was a tugboat crewmember and former fishing boat captain. He is accused of walking into the Salon Meritage and opening fire on customers and staff, killing eight and leaving another in critical condition. Seal Beach police arrested Dekraai a half-mile from the crime scene, where they discovered body armor and a number of firearms, according to witnesses and police.
Dekraai was involved recently in a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife over their young son.
KABC identified Michelle Fournier, Dekraai’s ex-wife and a stylist at the salon, as one of his victims. Witnesses say she was the first person shot in the rampage.
Late Wednesday night,The L.A. Times reported salon owner Randy Fannin another of the victims.
Friends and neighbors describe Dekraai as a doting father and good samaritan, a far cry from his image as the county’s worst mass murderer.
Mike Newton is a neighbor of Dekraai and described him as “forthright and friendly.” Dekraai was often seen playing in the front yard with his son and his dog, Newton said, which is a common occurrence in their “child-oriented” and “extremely nice” neighborhood.
Those who knew him from his frequent appearances at the salon, however, recalled his fiery outbursts with his former wife.
“I don’t want people to think he is just an evil monster. He’s a nice guy, but he must have snapped,” neighbor Stephanie Malchow told the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch site. “If he was in a custody dispute, that would explain why he snapped. He loves his little boy more than anything else in the world.”
Dekraai was involved in a tragic accident in 2007 that left a coworker dead when a tow line snapped on his tug boat as it began to haul a barge two miles off the Los Angeles coast. The severed line knocked 26-year-old Piper Cameron to the side of the boat, breaking her neck. Dekraai suffered a broken leg when he attempted to go to her aid.
Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch quotes coworkers as saying that Dekraai had been deeply affected by the incident, which left him in need of a caretaker.
On Wednesday night, stunned community members lingered outside the taped-off crime scene seeking answers. By Thursday morning, bouquets of flowers and handwritten poems were left outside the salon, forming a makeshift memorial.
The eight deaths in the Seal Beach shootings mark the worst mass killing in Southern California since the Christmas party attack in Covina nearly three years ago.
Kim Criswell, who owns a Seal Beach salon a few doors down from where the shooting took place, said she told her workers to hide in the bathroom and lock the door as soon as she heard shots. She said the rampage has rocked the tight-knit beachside city.
“Some of the employees there have young children. They’re mothers and fathers, and they go to school in this community,” said Criswell. “So,the alleged shooter has a child that goes to my son’s school.”
Nancy Keller works at a restaurant in the same shopping center as Salon Meritage where the shootings took place. On Wednesday night, she placed 12 battery-operated tea lights where someone had placed a flower and a card – the beginnings of a makeshift memorial to the victims.
“So we figured at least 12 people were affected, or more,” she said. “I just didn’t have that many candles. And just to do something when you’re helpless. And to maybe a family member or somebody will drive by and make them feel better.”
Many residents believe the shooting will change the face of the community, where people typically feel safe and even leave the doors to their homes unlocked. One resident who has lived in the area for over 35 years, said the neighborhood has become gentrified and as a result, has lulled many people into complacency.
KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez contributed to this report.
If you have ever been to the Seal Beach Pier before a sunset over Ray Bay or watched a sunrise you get a real since of how beautiful and majestic this beach community is! Tragically it’s events like yesterday that make us all so aware that we’re not as safe as we think we are. Please add your thoughts and comments below.