Today’s News: Shaken students, faculty return to SMC; Vigil tonight for shooting victims; Looking for a motive

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Aftermath. It’s a somber day at Santa Monica College. Students and faculty are returning to campus for finals week – just three days after a heavily armed gunman went on a shooting spree that fatally wounded five people before he was shot dead.

Authorities today are expected to interview the mother of the shooter – John Zawahri – as they try to decipher of a motive for the bloodshed. She was in Lebanon at the time of the shootings but has since returned to L.A.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica College officials are offering counseling services to anyone  feeling shaken by Friday’s shooting spree. A candlelight vigil will be held at 6 tonight in front of the school library. That’s where the 23-year-old Zawahri was shot by police during an exchange of gunfire Friday, just 10 minutes or so after beginning his rampage.

Student Sean Williams told KCRW that it feels unsettling to be on campus today. “You wonder, you know, is it going to happen again? Copy cats?” Williams said. “Coming back on campus for the first time, it’s a little eerie. It will probably be a few days before I can get the courage to go back in the library.”

The death toll increased yesterday when 26-year Marcela Franco died of her injuries. Her father, Carlos Navarro Franco, a longtime groundskeeper at SMC, was also killed. They were driving in a in a campus parking lot when Zawahri sprayed their car with gunfire.

Speaking to the media last night, Marcela’s aunt – Margaret Quinones-Perez – said the family had to make the difficult the painful decision to remove her from life support.

“We spent the last 48 hours like a cocoon. We wouldn’t let anybody in there. It was just us,” she said. “And we were loving her, and telling her how much we loved her and that we’re going to miss her. And we’re going to miss her!”

A fund has been set for the Franco family through SMC. Donations can be made online at foundation.smc.edu.francomemorial, or by mail to the Santa Monica College Foundation, 1900 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, Ca 90405.

Police say the shooting was premeditated act by a mentally unhinged individual in possession of a powerful arsenal. Zawahri carried several weapons, including a high-powered semi-automatic rifle, and he had more than a thousand rounds of ammunition.

The gunman was reportedly a student at the college in 2010. Which Way, L.A.?, L.A. Times

Gay Marriage. A new poll finds support for gay marriage on the upswing in California. State voters passed a ballot measure banning gay marriage five years ago. But a USC-Dornsife/L.A. Times poll finds that 58 percent of California voters now support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they oppose gay marriage. When the same poll asked the question two years ago, 52 percent said they favored gay marriage and 40 percent opposed it. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this month if California’s ban on gay marriage will stand. L.A. Times

Prison poll. Most California voters are in favor of releasing low-level prisoners to relieve overcrowding – but only if those releases don’t jeopardize public safety, according to another USC-Dornsife L.A. Times poll. It finds that a majority of state residents are willing to go to further than Gov. Jerry Brown when it comes to paroling inmates. Sixty-three percent say they approve of releasing low-level, non-violent offenders from prison early. Brown – who is fighting a federal court order to further thin California’s prison population – does not favor that idea. L.A. Times

Solar power. The amount of electricity generated by the sun in California has set a new record. State utility regulators say solar panels were generating just over two billion watts of electricity on Friday. That’s twice as much solar power as last year, and it’s almost exactly as much juice as was provided by the now defunct San Onofre nuclear power plant. Officials expect California to make it through the summer without blackouts. Orange County Register

Water conservation.
After the second straight parched winter, the L.A. Department of Water and Power is reminding L.A. residents that conservation measures are still in effect, and will be through the summer. That means that water customers are required to reduce typical usage by 15 percent, or face substantially higher bills. Odd and even watering days are in effect and outdoor watering is limited to three days a week. Residents are also being reminded that watering sidewalks and driveways is verboten, as is washing your car without a shutoff nozzle on the hose. L.A. Daily News

Salty Delta. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could become saltier if the state builds two massive diversion tunnels Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed to supply water to the Central Valley and Southern California. The Sacramento Bee reports the tunnels would divert fresh water from the Sacramento River and prevent it from reaching the delta, which supplies water to nearby farms and cities. The delta’s increased saltiness is among the possible environmental impacts of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the proposal to re-engineer California’s main water delivery system with the two tunnels. Sacramento Bee

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