OAKLAND, Calif. (MCT) — Students at Oikos University recognized the man who entered their classroom Monday morning as a former nursing student who hadn’t been around for a few months.
Then he ordered everyone to get up against a wall, and he drew a handgun.
“The people started running and he started shooting,” said Gurpreet Sahota, who relayed an account from his sister-in-law, nursing student Dawinder Kaur, 19.
Seven people died and three more were wounded in the shooting at the small Christian university, the San Francisco Bay Area’s worst mass murder in almost 20 years.
Police Chief Howard Jordan on Monday evening confirmed the arrest of 43-year-old One Goh of Oakland, a Korean native and naturalized U.S. citizen. Not much was immediately known about One, but Jordan said he had no known previous criminal record. Officers believe he acted alone.
Following the shooting, One drove about five miles from the school to an Alameda supermarket, where he announced he had shot people and should be arrested. A security guard detained him until police arrived; a shopper who witnessed a man being handcuffed said he seemed very sedate.
The scene was chaotic back at Oikos, which occupies a small building on Edgewater Drive just north of Hegenberger Road in a business park between Interstate 880 and Oakland International Airport. The scene there was slaughter.
Kaur, 19, a U.S. Army Reservist from Santa Clara, told relatives the gunman had been a student in her class but had been absent for months before reappearing Monday morning. Some panicked when he drew a gun, and he began firing; she was shot in the arm as she helped a friend who had fallen on the classroom’s floor; she then ran outside and called her brother, Paul Singh.
“She told me that a guy went crazy and she got shot,” Singh said. “She was running. She was crying; she was bleeding. It was wrong.” Police received a 911 call at 10:33 a.m. Art Richards of Oakland said he arrived at the school right around that time to pick up a friend who’s a nursing student there.
Richards said he saw a young woman wearing blue scrubs — possibly Kaur — emerge from bushes near the building, with blood running down her right arm from a wound near her elbow. She told him the gunman had fired point-blank at a man’s chest and she had been grazed by a bullet before she fled the building.
“She was in shock, fearing for her life, she didn’t know what to say,” Richards said. “She had a piece of her arm gone and that was just a graze from a bullet.”
Richards said the wounded woman also told him she had recognized the gunman as a former student who had “seemed kind of weird, and that he wasn’t all there and people would pick on him.” Police arrived within a few minutes, swarming the building; soon other buildings nearby were locked down and police and news helicopters hovered above. Richards said he saw officers tackle an Asian man near the school, but they quickly determined he wasn’t the suspect.
Officers advanced into the building, concerned the gunman might still be there and facing doors barricaded by terrified students. Some officers began smashing windows to get in; a police sergeant suffered a cut requiring hospitalization.
“About five or 10 minutes later, they drug out a body and placed it between two police cars. He was limp. They ran and grabbed a blanket and we knew he was dead,” Richards said.
Police moved an armored vehicle in front of the school to provide cover as more than a dozen students and faculty — some whom had been found cowering under desks — were evacuated by SWAT officers. Some of the wounded immediately were whisked away by ambulance while others were treated at the scene.
Authorities said most of those killed and wounded had been in a classroom near the school’s entrance, while one was shot in an administrative office. The gunman reportedly fired through another classroom’s locked door but didn’t hit anyone there.
Later, several bodies that had been removed from the school lay covered on the front lawn. Police said five people died at the scene; of five others who were taken to the hospital, two later died.
Kaur’s family, standing vigil as she was being treated at Alameda County Medical Center’s Highland Hospital, said they saw other victims as well: a man shot in the shoulder, and a woman shot in her hand and back.
“It was a very bloody scene and we have lots of evidence to collect,” Jordan said Monday evening. “This was an unprecedented tragedy. These deaths were shocking and senseless.”
About 35 people had been in or near the school at the time of the shooting, Jordan said, and the gunman apparently had fled before the first officer arrived. School officials quickly gave police the gunman’s name, photo and home address, to which officers were on their way when One turned himself in at the Alameda supermarket.
One apparently had commandeered a car belonging to Oikos nursing student Tshering Rinzing Bhutia and drove it to Alameda, from where police towed it after One’s arrest. Prem Singh, who owns the Entella Hotel in San Francisco where Bhutia lives, said he was unable to reach Bhutia later Monday: “I hope he’s all right.”
Jordan said Monday evening that police would not yet release 911 tapes, photos of One or names and photos of the victims. No one answered the door Monday at an apartment at Westlake Christian Terrace, a high rise residential building on the 200 block of 28th Street where One’s father apparently lived. One’s last known address also showed him living in the complex, although his current residence was not immediately clear.
One’s brother, U.S. Army Sgt. Su Wan Ko, died in a traffic accident in Virginia in March 2011, while on special assignment from the George C. Marshall Center, an international security and defense studies institute in Garmisch, Germany. One Goh attended a memorial service in Virginia along with their father, Young Nam Ko, 72, of Oakland. Their mother, Oak Chul Kim of Seoul, South Korea, attended as well, but has since died, according to published reports. The suspect’s other brother, Su Kwon Ko, who lives in Virginia, did not answer his phone for comment on Monday.
Oikos University offers “the opportunity to obtain a Christian education that is based on solid Christian doctrine and ideology,” according to a statement on its website by founder and president Pastor Jongin Kim. “Our main goal is to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.”
Monday’s shooting occurred during Christianity’s holiest week.
Kim said Monday the shooter had previously been an Oikos nursing student but was no longer enrolled; he was unsure whether the shooter had been expelled or had dropped out voluntarily. Kim did not see the shooting but heard about 30 gunshots. “I stayed in my office,” he said, imitating the sound of rapid shots.
Kaur’s father, Balvir Singh, via translation by Sahota, said her family is “lucky she is alive. We are thankful that God saved her.”
The gunman, he said, “should get the full consequences that he deserves for doing this to these people.”
Students panicked and ran from the building when the shooting started, said Nam Gong Kyun, a 52-year-old English student from Korea. Students and teachers throughout the building heard the shots, said Lucas Garcia, who has taught English at Oikos for three years. “We heard many gunshots,” he said. “Everybody was scared, obviously.”
Among those outside the school Sunday afternoon was Timothy Yi, pastor of Hayward Korean Baptist Church, who had arrived with the father of a student who was still inside the building. Yi said no one had been able to reach the student, Lydia Sim, 21, although her father had been escorted inside.
“He doesn’t know if his daughter is OK,” Yi said. Phone calls to her cell phone were not answered. “I just want to know if she’s safe or not,” Yi said.
The pastor was shocked by the shooting, as the school has a reputation as a religious school. “They just study Bible and nursing,” he said.
Monday’s body count was the Bay Area’s worst since the July 1, 1993, massacre at 101 California St. in San Francisco, when gunman Gian Luigi Ferri rampaged through two floors of a law office, killing eight victims before committing suicide.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan appeared grim as she faced a news conference Monday evening. “No American mayor wants to have this situation,” she said. “We’ll have to question the availability of guns and the need for other services in our community.”
Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, in whose district the carnage occurred, said it’s “crazy when seven people lose their lives to an act of senseless violence. We have seven families whose loved ones won’t come home tonight. There are no words that anyone can offer them.”
A memorial service is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Berkeley Korean United Methodist Church in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood.
(Staff writers Karl Fischer, Malaika Fraley, Matt Krupnick, Doug Oakley, Matt O’Brien, Jeremy Owens, Robert Salonga, Jason Sweeney, Thomas Peele and Angela Hill contributed to this story.)