Officers responded to reports of a shooting about 6 p.m. at the upscale La Jolla Crossroads apartments in San Diego’s University City neighborhood, where about 30 people had gathered for a birthday party at the pool.
A police helicopter arrived on the scene first and reported seeing a suspect armed with a handgun, surrounded by “numerous victims,” San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said in a news conference. The pilot watched the suspect reload his weapon once and open fire again on the partygoers, she said.
A witness who saw the chaos from his apartment window said the shooter appeared calm as his victims struggled on the ground in front of him.
“We could see the shooter sitting there with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other,” the witness, who was not identified, told ABC 10.
Lauren Seed told NBC 7 she was inside her apartment when she heard six or seven shots ring out at the pool.
“We got down, we closed the windows and then about a minute later, six or seven more shots, lots of screaming, lots of people screaming,” she said. “From the screams, you could hear that somebody or multiple people were hit.”
A sergeant and two officers arrived and cornered the suspect in the pool area. The suspect pointed a large caliber handgun at them, and all three opened fire, killing him, Zimmerman said. She added that the suspect may have fired at police first.
Police said seven people were struck by gunfire: four African American women, two African American men and one Hispanic man. Another African American man broke his arm while running away from the shooting. All the victims were adults.
One of the women died at the hospital. Police did not give her name. Several of the others were listed in critical condition Sunday night, police said. It was unclear whether the suspect knew any of the victims.
Zimmerman said it was too early in the investigation to pinpoint a motive. Police were still interviewing witnesses and had not yet spoken at length with the three officers who opened fire, she said.
“Our hearts go out to the victims,” she said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
The La Jolla Crossroads apartments are located near the northernmost edge of San Diego, near the University of California campus. Community pools and spas are located throughout the complex, according to the La Jolla Crossroads website.
Witnesses said most of the people at Sunday’s party were black.
Amberjot Riat, 22, and Kaela Wong, 20, told the Los Angeles Times they were sitting in a hot tub when the shooting began. As they took cover behind a wall, they told the Times, they could hear the gunman say to some of the partygoers, “You can either leave or you can stay here and die.”
A resident of the complex told ABC 10 that he was outside when the gunfire erupted.
“It was surreal, you know, because we live here,” he said. “We literally saw people jumping out from the fences and running away like crazy.”
A man who said he was a guest at the party told the station it took him a few seconds to realize what was happening. There were “more rounds and then more sounds,” he said. “And that’s when I realized, oh, someone is actually shooting a gun at people. So that’s when all the scrambling started.”
After jumping a fence, he told ABC 10, he came across a young man clutching an injury and yelling, “I’m hit, I’m hit.”
“I said, come here,” the witness recalled, “and I picked him up and I just carried him around the corner.”