Police Say Shooter In 'Horrific,' Deadly Mass Shooting At Pool Party Was 'Despondent' Over Breakup
A San Diego man wielding a gun and talking on his cell phone opened fire on an apartment complex pool party early Sunday evening, killing one woman and critically wounding several other people. Police say the gunman, whom responding police officers fatally shot after he turned his gun on them, was "despondent" over a recent breakup, and called his ex-girlfriend during the shooting.
The shooter, later identified by police as 49-year-old Peter Selis, was white, while all seven of the shooting victims were black or Latino, leading many to speculate that the shooting was racially-motivated. However, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said in a Monday morning press conference that investigators have found "zero indication" that race was a factor in the shooting.
"Selis was despondent over the breakup with an ex girlfriend, and these victims were just in his presence at the wrong place and the wrong time. We have no information that they even knew each other," she said. "There is zero to indicate that race played a role in this crime, the victims were targeted for their mere presence in his vicinity."
Witnesses to the shooting say Selis, who lives in the apartment complex, looked "relaxed" as he sat in a poolside lounge chair, drank a beer and shot at people celebrating a neighbor's birthday, according to witnesses at the upscale apartment complex pool at 945 Judicial Drive in University City, a tony San Diego neighborhood near La Jolla, California and the University of California, San Diego. Witnesses described the scene as chaotic and "like a war zone," in local and national news reports, noting that many people who were out by the pool fled the scene as the shooting began, and that one man broke his arm while jumping a fence to flee.
Rikky Galiendes, 27, a UCSD student, told the Associated Press that he saw the shooting unfold from the balcony of his sixth story apartment:
"When we looked over the balcony, [Selis] was just sitting down with a gun on his lap," Galiendes said. "He was calm, you know. I mean from my perspective, the guy was ready to do whatever he was going to do. He shot at people having a good time and having a party ... As soon as I heard the gunshots I had goosebumps and the whole thing was really emotionally draining — seeing blood everywhere, seeing bodies on the ground, hoping they survived, seeing bloody footsteps you know of people who ran away. There was just so much blood. It was so surreal ... It was chilling. La Jolla is known to be really safe and this is a family neighborhood."
Selis is a father and a former car mechanic at a San Diego Ford dealership who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, according to reports from CNN and the Associated Press. The shooting victims included four black women, two black men and one Latino man.
Authorities said that police who responded to 911 calls about the poolside shooting just after 6 p.m. Sunday could see Selis by the pool appearing to reload a large handgun. Selis then allegedly pointed his gun at three officers who approached the scene, and began firing at them, leading the officers to fatally shoot him.
Zimmerman said investigators worked through the night to discover a motive for the shooting. She said family of Selis interviewed by police described him as "distraught and depressed" over a recent breakup, but "they had no idea he would resort to violence, let alone shooting at innocent victims." Investigators also learned that, after Selis began shooting in the pool area, he briefly left the pool area to call his ex-girlfriend and tell her that he had just shot two people, and that police were arriving. "Selis stayed on the phone as he continued to fire his gun," Zimmerman said. "It is apparent that Selis wanted his ex-girlfriend to listen in."
Police do not believe Selis planned the shooting in advance, Zimmerman added, and Selis did not appear to have a violent history.
She also provided an update on the six people who were shot but survived: all but two are in stable condition; the other two are in critical condition still, but expected to survive, she said.
"What started as a celebration of a friend's birthday turned into a tragedy of just epic proportions for all those at the pool party," she said.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer described the shooting as "horrific" in a Sunday evening Tweet: "This was a truly horrific and disturbing act. We pray for the victims and thank our first responders. Our city rejects this senseless violence."