Michael Winter, USA TODAY
In a series of violent confrontations Friday, a heavily armed gunman killed as many as six people and wounded several others before being shot dead by police in the Santa Monica College library, police said.
"The information we have indicates, at this point, that as many as half a dozen victims were shot and killed and several more were injured," Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said at a late afternoon news briefing.
The suspect, who was not immediately identified, was described as a white male in his 20s who wore body armor and a helmet and brandished a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and an ammunition belt. He wearing a black sweatshirt with "Life is a Gamble" on the back.
He was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police in library as students dived for cover or ran for safety.
There were no immediate reports that students or staff were hit by the gunfire. The 38-acre main campus remained locked down through the afternoon. The bomb squad was examining suspicious bags the gunman left behind and police searched for a possible second suspect.
Three women in a car were shot and wounded during the chaotic events, which began just before noon PT (3 p.m. ET). One later died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Another woman was in critical condition and one was in serious condition.
A woman shot in another car was in good condition at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, the hospitals said.
The violence occurred about three miles from where President Obama was appearing at a Democratic fundraiser. Authorities do not believe it was related to the president's visit.
The series of incidents -- Santa Monica police said possibly six -- began when a gunman tried to break into a house near the two-year college and then set fire to and shot up another home, about two blocks from campus. Two bodies were found in the house, a fire department spokesman told the Associated Press.
Jerry Cunningham Rathner, who lives nearby, told AP that she heard gunshots shortly before noon and then saw a man shooting at a neighbors' home. The residence quickly erupted in flames and billowing smoke.
She said the gunman then went to the corner and pointed a military-style rifle at a woman in a car, ordering her to pull over. He then motioned to another car to slow down before opening fire.
"He fired three to four shots into the car -- boom, boom, boom, right at her," Rathner told AP, adding the the driver was wounded only in the shoulder.
Other witnesses reported that the gunman had carjacked a car and shot at other vehicles and a transit bus.
"This guy just stepped out with a big rifle," Santa Monica College student Marta Fagerstroem, who was aboard the bus, told KNBC-TV. She said he came out from the passenger seat of a car.
The gunman then ran onto campus, where students were taking final exams and graduating. A lock-down was ordered and police evacuated some students after reports the gunman may have left behind several bags. The sheriff's bomb squad was called in.
Student Jimes Gillespie, who was studying in the library, told the Associated Press that he saw a gunman with a shotgun but also heard gunfire from a handgun, leading him to believe there were two shooters. But law enforcement told other news outlets only one gunman was involved.
Another student told KNX that he heard four shots near the library exit, quickly followed by a rapid volley of gunfire. It was not clear if police had fired.
The college canceled afternoon and evening final exams at the main campus. All Santa Monica city schools were placed on lockdown.
Obama was scheduled to helicopter back to the Los Angeles airport but instead traveled by motorcade "to avoid any impact on the ongoing local response to the shooting in the area," the White House press office said.
The president left LAX about 2:40 p.m. to travel to nearby Rancho Mirage to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.