OAKLAND, Calif. — A former student expelled from a small Christian university and upset about being teased over his poor English skills went to the school to find a female administrator, then opened fire when she was not there, killing at least seven people, police said Tuesday.
One L. Goh “then went through the entire building systematically and randomly shooting victims,” Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference. Goh forced a secretary into a classroom and asked people to line up, Jordan said.
“Not everyone was cooperative, and that’s when he began shooting,” he said. The dead included six students and the secretary, he said.
Jordan said Goh appeared to have planned the attack for several weeks.
Those connected to the school, including the founder and several students, said the gunman had studied nursing. He was upset with administrators at the school, and also with several students.
“They disrespected him, laughed at him. They made fun of his lack of English speaking skills. It made him feel isolated compared to the other students,” Jordan said.
The 43-year-old South Korean national had been expelled, possibly for behavioral problems, according to Jordan.
Goh left behind a string of debts and minor traffic citations in his former home state of Virginia and was evicted from one apartment complex. His brother was killed in a car accident last year in Virginia while on active duty in the U.S. Army, according to Stars and Stripes newspaper.
“We’ve learned that this was a very chaotic, calculated and determined gentleman that came there with a very specific intent to kill people, and that’s what his motive was and that’s what he carried out,” Jordan told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Soon after the shooting Monday, heavily armed officers swarmed the tiny college of fewer than 100 students in a large industrial park near the Oakland airport. For a time, police believed the gunman could still be inside. But he wasn’t.
Instead, officers said he apparently drove about three miles from campus before surrendering to officers inside a supermarket.
Police first received a 911 call at 10:33 a.m. reporting a woman on the ground bleeding. As more calls came in from the school, the first arriving officer found a victim suffering from a life-threatening gunshot wound, he said.
More officers then arrived and formed a perimeter around the school on the belief that the suspect was still inside, he said.
“Potential victims remained inside the building either trapped by a locked door which officers were unable to open,” Jordan said. Others were unable to flee because they were injured, he said.
Jordan said there were about 35 people in or near the building when gunfire broke out. Of the seven fatalities, five died at the scene and another two at the hospital. The wounded victims are in stable condition, and at least one person was released from the hospital. They were from various countries, including Nigeria, Nepal and the Phillipines.
He told GMA on Tuesday the victims ranged in age from 21 to 40.
Howard described Goh as cooperating with authorities although he said he has not been “particularly remorseful.”
Art Richards said he was driving by the university on his way to pick up a friend when he spotted a woman hiding in the bushes. He pulled over, and when he approached her, she said, “I’m shot” and showed him her arm.
“She had a piece of her arm hanging out,” Richards said, noting that she was wounded near the elbow.
As police arrived, Richards said he heard 10 gunshots coming from inside the building. The female victim told him that she saw the gunman shoot one person point-blank in the chest and one in the head.
Tashi Wangchuk, whose wife witnessed the shooting, said he was told by police that the gunman first shot a woman at the front desk, then shot randomly in classrooms.
Wangchuk said his wife, Dechen Wangzom, was in her vocational nursing class when she heard gunshots. She locked the door and turned off the lights, Wangchuk said he was told by his wife.
The gunman “banged on the door several times and started shooting outside and left,” he said. Wangchuk said no one was hurt inside his wife’s classroom, but that the gunman shot out the glass in the door. He said she did not know the man.
“She’s a hero,” he said of his wife.
At Highland Hospital, Dawinder Kaur’s family told the Oakland Tribune that she was being treated for a gunshot to her elbow. The 19-year-old U.S. Army Reservist told her family that that the gunman was a student in her nursing class who had been absent for months before returning Monday.
The gunman entered the classroom and ordered students to line up against the wall.
When he showed his gun, students began running and he opened fire, her family said.
“She told me that a guy went crazy and she got shot,” brother Paul Singh told the newspaper. “She was running. She was crying; she was bleeding, it was wrong.”
Pastor Jong Kim, who founded the school about 10 years ago, told the newspaper that he did not know if the shooter was expelled or dropped out. Kim said he heard about 30 rapid-fire gunshots in the building.
“I stayed in my office,” he said.
Deborah Lee, who was in an English language class, said she heard five to six gunshots at first. “The teacher said, `Run,’ and we run,” she said. “I was OK, because I know God protects me. I’m not afraid of him.”
Goh fled from the school in a Honda Accord that belonged to one of the victims, Jordan said. The suspect was detained at a Safeway supermarket about three miles from the university, about an hour after the shooting.
Police on Tuesday were still looking for the gun used, which Jordan described as a semiautomatic handgun.
A security guard at the supermarket approached the man because he was acting suspiciously, KGO-TV reported. The man told the guard that he needed to talk to police because he shot people, and the guard called authorities.
“He didn’t look like he had a sign of relief on him. He didn’t look like he had much of any emotion on his face,” said Lisa Resler, who was buying fruit at Safeway with her 4-year-old daughter when she saw the man.
Goh also called his father soon after the shooting and told him what happened, the police chief said. The father called authorities, Jordan said.
“We don’t believe he intended on having a confrontation with police,” Jordan said on Tuesday.
Police went to the Westlake Christian Terrace senior housing complex on Monday afternoon to speak with a relative of Goh, Nam Ko Young, who’s believed to be the man’s father, said Young’s neighbor, Barbara Ferguson.
Ferguson said she’s seen Goh and Young in the lobby and exchanged hellos in the past but that she doesn’t know them well.
Jerry Sung, the university’s accountant, said the school offers courses in both Korean and English to less than 100 students. He said the campus consists of one building. Sung said many of its students go on to work in nursing and ministry.
“The founder felt there was a need for theology and nursing courses for Korean-Americans who were newer to the community,” Sung said. “He felt they would feel more comfortable if they had Korean-American professors.”