Trena Johnson, a longtime administrative assistant working in the dean's office, heard gunfire and looked out the window around noon Friday. Students were jumping out of windows of nearby buildings to get away. A man in black with a "very large gun" shot a woman in the head outside the library.
"When I saw her shot in the head and she fell to the ground we ran out the back door," Johnson said. "I haven't been able to stop shaking."
Before the rampage was over five people, including the gunman, were killed and five more were wounded, police said.
The violence, which lasted little more than 10 minutes, started about a mile away when the gunman began shooting at a house, and it caught on fire. Two bodies were later found inside, police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.
Two officials say the killings began as a domestic violence incident and the victims in the home were the gunman's father and brother. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
As flames rose from the house, the man, wearing what appeared to be a ballistic jacket, carjacked a woman at gunpoint and directed her to drive to the college campus, having her stop so he could shoot along the way, police said.
He wounded one woman in a car who was in critical condition late Friday. He fired on a city bus where three women were left with minor injuries. One had shrapnel-type injuries and the two others had injuries not related to gunfire. They were treated at a hospital and released.
The gunman also fired on police cars, bystanders and pedestrians, police said.
From there, the chaos shifted to Santa Monica College, a two-year school with about 34,000 students located among homes and strip malls more than a mile inland from the city's famous pier, promenade and expansive, sandy beaches.
In a faculty parking lot on the edge of campus, he fired on two people in a red Ford Explorer that crashed through a block wall. The driver was killed, police said, and a passenger was in critical condition after undergoing surgery UCLA Medical Center, doctors said. On Saturday, authorities identified the driver as Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, of West Los Angeles.
College employee Joe Orcutt was in the lot and said the gunman looked calm and composed as he fired at him. Orcutt jumped out of the way.
"He's just standing there, like he's modeling for some ammo magazine," Orcutt said, "seeing who he could shoot, one bullet at a time, like target practice."
The gunman walked on to campus and shot the woman in front of the library, who appeared to be in her 50s and carried a bag of recyclables, police spokesman Richard Lewis said. She died at the hospital about three hours later.
The gunman went inside the library and kept shooting but apparently hit no one, Seabrooks said.
Dozens of students, who had been studying for final exams, ran for the exits.
"I was totally scared to death and I can't believe it happened so fast," said Vincent Zhang, a 20-year-old economics major.
Officers entered the library and shot the gunman moments later, Seabrooks said. He was carried to a sidewalk, where he was declared dead. His body remained there many hours later as coroner's investigators examined the scene. His name and the names of most of his victims' were being withheld while the coroner's office notified relatives.
Nine crime scenes were under investigation by officers from 11 different law enforcement agencies, said Lewis, the police spokesman.
On the gunman they found a canvas bag that included an "AR-15 style" assault rifle, a handgun and magazines of ammunition, Lewis said. A small cache of ammunition found in the house that had burned.
Police had said earlier that seven people were killed, including the gunman, but they revised the death toll to five at a news conference late Friday. Lewis said there were conflicting descriptions of some victims and they were counted twice.
Police detained a second man but released him and said he was not a suspect, expressing confidence the crisis had ended.
"Santa Monica is very safe tonight," Lewis said.