“We thought it was maybe firecrackers,” she said. “But he just didn’t stop. Anybody he saw he was shooting.”
“It went boom, boom, boom,” she said, speaking outside the taped-off crime scene. “I was afraid he was going to shoot everybody.”
The afternoon shooting left the normally placid beach town struggling to make sense of the carnage. A policeman spokesman said the shooting had put the city and its small police force on unfamiliar ground.
Bowles said the crime scene was horrific. “There are victims throughout the entire salon," he said.
Witnesses and survivors alike were taken to a nearby apartment complex to settle their nerves. Others milled outside the police lines at the neighborhood shopping center, recounting what had happened.
Marissa Pei said she had been at the gym earlier in the day with a friend before bumping into her again outside the shopping center. She was sobbing.
" ''My friend is dead. My friend is dead,’ ” Pei said the woman told her. “I held her.”
Pei said she also spoke to a man married to someone who was at the salon.
“’My baby. She’s half of me,’ ” Pei recalled him saying. “ 'Please, God, don’t let her be dead.’ ”
Dion Martini, a manicurist at a nearby salon, said: "This is a shock to the whole community. All of us around here have worked together at one time or another."
Martini was busy with a client herself when she heard sirens and helicopters and knew something was wrong. When she learned a shooting had unfolded in a salon much like hers, she struggled to contain her emotions.
"I've been having chills and had to hold back tears," she said. "I just can't imagine anybody being that sick to go in and do that to anybody."
Dr. James Blake, a dentist, was in his 5th street office doing bridge work on a patient, as his hygienists cleaned other patients’ teeth, when he heard what he later learned were gunshots coming from the parking lot outside.
“Then there was a pause and a few more gunshots,” said Blake in an interview with The Times. “I didn’t see the shooter.”
Alarmed, Blake said his staff immediately locked the door to the office until police arrived.
The shooting “definitely was very unexpected” for Seal Beach, said Blake, who’s had his office in the shopping center since 1992.
”When you have somebody who just loses it, you can be anywhere and not be safe,” he said.