Eight people have been killed Wednesday afternoon by a gunman at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, California.
The gunman, Scott Dekraai, apparently enraged over a custody dispute walked into a crowded Seal Beach hair salon where his ex-wife worked and opened fire, killing eight people and critically wounding another person in the deadliest shooting in Orange County history.
The 41-year-old gunman is said to have shot a total of nine hairdressers and customers at Salon Meritage, a beauty salon just blocks from the Pacific Ocean in the upscale seaside resort of Seal Beach.
According to authorities, the attacker stormed in the salon at 1:30 p.m. and sprayed with gunfire as victims fell to the floor and those who could escape ran onto the street or hid in neighboring businesses in the bustling area of trendy restaurants and shops along Pacific Coast Highway.
Scott Dekraai continued firing outside, where he shot one man who apparently tried to flee in a Range Rover.
Six people were pronounced dead at the scene. Three others, including a 73-year-old woman, were initially rushed to the trauma center at Long Beach Memorial Hospital in critical condition, where two of them died later. One of the shooting victims is thought to be Salon Meritage owner, Randy Fannin, and the other one is Scott Dekraai’s ex-wife, Michelle Fournier. All the victims were adults.
The gunman, who used to work in the military, had allegedly threatened violence after losing the custody of his and Michelle Fournier 7-year-old son, Dominic.
An officer saw the suspect leaving the area as police responded to reports of the gunfire. Scott Dakraai was arrested about half a mile away and was the sole suspect in the rampage, according to police.
Scott Dakraai, a Huntington Beach resident, was thought to have been wearing body armor during the attack.
When officers raided his car they found multiple weapons, police said.
The shooter didn’t offer any resistance when he was arrested.
Sergeant Steve Bowles of Seal Beach Police said: “We believe he is the only shooter. He was taken into custody without injury.”
The Wednesday rampage stunned the normally placid Seal Beach community. Just one homicide had been reported in the city in the last five years, according to authorities.
“A crime of this magnitude is not something Seal Beach is familiar with,” Sergeant Steve Bowles said. “This could be one of our greatest tragedies.”
According to Mary Hearn, spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Superior Court, Scott Dekraai initiated a divorce case in 2007 against Michelle Fournier, whose last name was then Dekraai. A judge ruled that all contact between the couple had to be via text or email, except for a 10-minute phone call once a week to discuss their child’s education and well-being.
At the time of the court dispute it appeared that Scott Dekraai was awarded custody and Michelle Fournier had to comply with several conditions to see the child, such as to not consume alcohol 24 hours before visiting. Last year, the case was transferred to Orange County Superior Court at Scott Dekraai’s request, according to spokeswoman.
A local man named Bill Horton said: “[It was a] custody battle for seven-year-old son. Ex-Husband lost court case yesterday. Apparently he had been making threats of violence.”
One of Michelle Fournier neighbor’s told KTLA she took out a restraining order against her former husband on Tuesday.
Scott Dekraai is said to have moved to the area in 2009 after being honorably discharged from the military because of a work-related leg injury. He allegedly remarried Mindy Miguel, his rehab nurse. Mindy is currently assisting detectives with their investigations, according to neighbors.
Outside the salon, which was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape, witnesses described a chaotic scene in which multiple rounds were fired inside the business and in the parking lot. Kimberly Criswell, who owns a neighboring salon, said at least two shots were fired in front of her business as the attacker shot at the man in the Range Rover.
Police confirmed that one of the victims is male and some of those inside managed to escape without harm.
The quiet Seal Beach has approximately 25,000 residents and identifies itself as the Gateway to Southern California’s Orange County and is located about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Sandra Bullock is among its famous residents.