Every hair-dressing station was full at Salon Meritage when a gunman burst through the door and began shooting, sending terrified customers diving for cover in the upscale salon tucked just blocks from the beach in this quaint seaside town. The shooter then stepped outside, shot a man sitting in a truck in the parking lot and sped off.
By the time it was all over Wednesday, eight people were dead and another in critical condition in one of the deadliest shooting rampages in Orange County and the most violent crime in memory in Seal Beach, a town so calm the police spokesman couldn’t even recall when the last homicide occurred when asked. Police arrested 42-year-old Scott Dekraai about a half-mile from the scene but did not release a motive or any other details.
But friends of the salon owner and other employees said Dekraai was the ex-husband of a stylist who worked there. One of the licensed cosmetologists at the salon was listed as Michelle Dekraai. Police Sgt. Steve Bowles would only say, “There may be something to the motive as to a relationship with somebody in the salon, that is our assumption.” He declined to elaborate later.
Friends say the two had been involved in a bitter custody dispute over their 7-year-old son, with Michelle reportedly filing a restraining order against him just this week, according to CBS News’ Elizabeth Sanchez. “He had warned her and said he would do something like this,” a friend of Michelle’s told CBS News.
In all, one man and five women died at the salon, one man and one woman died after being transported to a nearby hospital, and one woman remained in critical condition. Their names have not been released. Police were still trying to determine the sequence of events inside the shop. They wouldn’t say what type of weapon was used or if the gunman used more than one.
“We’re unsure at this point if he shot from the entrance and people, as they were shot, ran in seeking cover or seeking shelter, but we have fatalities throughout the salon,” Bowles told reporters at a news conference outside the business. Lydia Sosa, a hairstylist who left two years ago to work at a new business with her friend, said the gunman’s ex-wife was a stylist at Salon Meritage and spoke often of her relationship problems.
“They had been having bitter problems for years and I guess he just went in there and started shooting,” said Sosa, who remained close with the salon’s owner, Randy Fannin, after her departure. So did Sosa’s business partner, Tammy Hetzel, who said the couple’s problems were well-known among employees.
Cindy Spinosa, 51, who works at a nearby business, said she heard a siren around the time of the shooting. “After that one of my co-workers got a phone call from her nephew,” Spinosa said. “He was outdoors when the suspect got into his truck and took off.” Seal Beach has seen just one other homicide in the past four years, and Bowles said Wednesday’s killings were the greatest tragedy to ever strike the seaside town.
So sad, R.I.P. to those lost in this senseless crime.