A story for every victim

Margarita Gomez, 68

Margarita Gomez, a 68-year-old Latina,  was killed Friday, June 7, during a shooting rampage that left four others, and the gunman, dead in Santa Monica.

Gomez walked through the Santa Monica College campus each morning and afternoon, collecting cans and other recyclables to help pay the bills. She didn’t have much money, but friends said she regularly saved some of the change she got for her cans and gave it to charity.

Her apartment was across the street from the school, where she was a familiar face.

The 68-year-old usually didn’t check the college for recyclables on Fridays, her son said. But she was outside the library the day authorities say John Zawahri, 23, carried a semi-automatic rifle onto campus and opened fire, striking Gomez before going inside the building. She was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she died Friday afternoon.

Zawahri killed four others, authorities say, before he was fatally shot by police. The roughly 10-minute rampage began at the home the gunman shared with his father and ended at the college campus.

Gomez’s son said he had heard about the shootings and couldn’t reach his mother on her phone. He assumed she was safe.

“Still I cannot believe it,” Rafael Torres said Monday. “I think she’s going to come back.”

Gomez grew up in Mexico but had lived in Santa Monica for nearly three decades, her son said. The mother of two loved her city, her church and her grandchildren, he said.

Torres said his mother’s 19th Street home has been flooded by visitors, and her answering machine was full of messages.

“The hardest thing is we could not say, ‘I love you, Mom,’ before she died,” he said. “We never thought it was going to be a bullet.”

-- Kate Mather

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