A gunman opened fire 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 truck and drove away from Salon Meritage after opening fire on Wednesday. Scott Evans Dekraai, 42, was stopped by officers less than 1km away and surrendered without incident while saying he had multiple weapons with him, police Sergeant Steve Bowles said.
Dekraai was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder, Bowles said.
In all, one man and five women died at the salon, one man and one woman died after being transported to a nearby hospital, and one woman remained in a critical condition late on Wednesday. Their names have not been released.
Friends of the salon owner said the gunman was the ex-husband of a stylist who worked there.
Bowles would only say: “There may be something to the motive as to a relationship with somebody in the salon, that is our assumption.”
He declined to elaborate.
Kimberly Criswell, who owns a salon just two doors down from the scene of the shootings, said she and her customers and employees heard gunshots, and her receptionist saw a man through a window as he was shot in a parking lot.
“There was like a pop, pop and my receptionist screamed: ‘He just shot that man.’ We all ran into the bathroom and locked the door,”’ Criswell said.
Glenn Zachman, who owns a video news-gathering service, said he arrived at the scene of the arrest shortly after police and saw they had placed plastic bags over the man’s hands to preserve possible gunshot residue.
He also saw a bulletproof vest on the back of a patrol car but did not know if the man, dressed in a button-down shirt and pants, had been wearing it.
The man, in handcuffs, was 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 man was co-operative when officers, working from a description of the shooter, stopped him near the salon, Bowles said.
Shortly after he was arrested, police arrived at a house on Melody Lane in nearby Huntington Beach and escorted two women to a white car and then roped off the house with crime scene tape. Neighbors identified photographs of the alleged shooter as their neighbor Scott. The house is registered to Scott Dekraai, and one of the licensed cosmetologists at the salon was Michelle Dekraai.
Kari Salveson of Los Alamitos, who attended a service for the victims at SeaCoast Grace Church in Seal Beach, said she had known Michelle Dekraai for several years and was aware that she and her ex-husband were involved in a bitter custody dispute over their son.
In Huntington Beach, people said they were shocked to learn that one of the friendliest men in the neighborhood had been arrested for the shootings.
Dekraai’s neighbors described him as a friendly man who invited them over for pool parties at the house he had lived in for about six years. They said he doted on his son, playing catch with the boy in his yard.
Neighbors said they were aware Dekraai was in a custody battle with his ex-wife over their son, who neighbors said is seven or eight years old.
“It was a very difficult battle and he was trying to get more time” with his son, said Jo Cornhall, who lives across the street from Dekraai.