Year After Santa Monica Rampage: "You Can Remember Where You Were"

Victims recall the last mass shooting in Southern California that left four people dead in Santa Monica

By Jason Kandel and Lolita Lopez
|  Wednesday, May 28, 2014  |  Updated 6:26 AM PDT
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Family members who lost loved ones during the deadly, 13-minute shooting rampage that ended at Santa Monica College last year, are reminded of the tragedy from the shooting in Isla Vista. Lolita Lopez reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. from Santa Monica Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

Lolita Lopez, Dennis Lahti

Family members who lost loved ones during the deadly, 13-minute shooting rampage that ended at Santa Monica College last year, are reminded of the tragedy from the shooting in Isla Vista. Lolita Lopez reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. from Santa Monica Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

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A woman whose niece was killed in Southern California's last mass shooting in Santa Monica said Tuesday that the bloody rampage that left six University of California, Santa Barbara students dead has reopened wounds.

Margaret Quinones, whose niece, Marcela, was killed June 7, 2013 when a man with a semi-automatic rifle went on a rampage, said she can no longer keep up with the news of last week's fatal shootings and stabbings in Isla Vista.

"It almost feels like the Santa Barbara shooter came and shot our family again," she said. "You're there again. You can remember where you were, what you were doing, who you saw, how you felt. You also get panic attacks. You can't breathe. You can't sleep."

Quinones' niece was one of five people killed when John Zawahri went on shooting spree through the city that ended up on the Santa Monica College campus. Authorities said Zawahri killed his father and brother at a home before fatally shooting 68-year old mother Margarita Gomez and Marcela and her father Carlos Franco, Quinones' brother in law. Several other people were injured in the attack, which ended when the 23-year-old shooter died in a gun battle with police.

Franco, who worked as a groundskeeper at the college for more than 20 years, was driving his niece to summer classes at the time of the shooting.

"It was his day off because Marcie didn't drive," Quinones said. "So he took Marcela there."

 

Over the last year the family has been through various stages of coping -- from disbelief to numbness.

"You're not in the accountability stage you are not even there," she said. "You are still trying to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays without them."

Now, her thoughts are focused on the families of the victims just a few hours away. She imagines their families having to claim their children's bodies at the morgue.

"It's hard," she said. "It's hard.

For Quinones' family, finding people who allowed them to be emotional helped, as did the outpouring of community support.

"It was that caring from strangers that really helped us, that really gave us the strength to go on," she said.

At Santa Monica College, life for students has also moved on, but not without pause.

"I've thought about it, especially in light of other recent school shootings like the Santa Barbara one last week," said Jordan Davis, a student. "It's scary. Memorials for three of the five victims are constant reminders."

As she reminisces about her loved ones, Quinones hopes that people won't just remember but act.

"I really hope that these people who sit in policy seats get off their tushies and take on the hard issues," she said. "Don't take on the easy issues. You need to be responsible for keeping our families safe."

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