San Diego

Witnesses of San Diego Mass Shooting Rampage Say Race Played a Role in Crime

"At no point in time did it cross my mind that we weren’t targeted because of the group that we are," said Lauren Chapman, who attended Sunday's pool party and witnessed the shooting

Witnesses to Sunday's mass shooting rampage at a pool party in San Diego are pushing back against the idea that the shooting was not a hate crime.

Police have said the white gunman who killed one person and wounded seven more at the party, where most people were black or Hispanic, was despondent over a recent break-up.

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said investigators have found "zero evidence" so far that the attack was motivated by race.

But people who were there feel differently.

“This was partially, to some in fact, a crime full of hate or a racially motivated crime," said Lauren Chapman, who attended the party in University City and witnessed the shooting.

Chapman and her friends, all witnesses to the shooting at the La Jolla Crossroads apartment complex, gathered Tuesday to recount the horrifying afternoon and update the status of the victims. 

One victim — Monique Clark, a mother of three — was fatally injured in the shooting. Seven others were injured in the shooting, some critically. Another person was shot at but not hurt, police said.

The gunman, 49-year-old Peter Selis, was fatally shot by police. 

The witnesses voiced their concern about a the possibility the crime was racially motivated, the friends said. 

"This man came downstairs with a goal I believe and he already made a decision on what he was going to do," said witness and friend of the victims, Mychael Gary.

When Selis shot Clark, Chapman said, a white woman rushed to help her.

Chapman said Selis pointed at the white people who ran to help Clark and told them not to administer aid. 

"We say that, being when we had our friend laying on the ground and we had another friend trying to tend to her, and he directed our Caucasian friend not to aid the black woman on the ground, it leads you to believe that there's something at play here greater than just a random act," she said.

Mychael Gary recalled hearing Selis tell the woman not to step in. 

"'Do not touch her,'" Gary recalled hearing. 

Chapman said that Selis, who was white, did not target two white women immediately to his left, approximately 10 feet away, Chapman said. Instead, he starting firing shots at people 20 feet away. 

"I think that we have to acknowledge that there is implicit bias," Chapman said, referring to the role of race in the shooting. 

The group immediately felt they were targeted because of their race, and continue to feel that way, Chapman said. It was a gut feeling they all had, Chapman said, as a majority of the witnesses and victims are black or Hispanic.

"At no point in time did it cross my mind that we weren’t targeted because of the group that we are," Chapman said. "At no point in time."

Witness Mollique Johnson said the group was not okay with police dismissing the idea of a hate crime. 

“But the problem, looking at the hate crime laws — they require a statement or a quote or something that a victim heard for it to be identified as a hate crime," Chapman said.

Zimmerman said Selis was despondent over a recent breakup with a girlfriend.

Homicide investigators said they are continuing to investigate the deadly incident. However, investigators have found "zero evidence" the violence was racially motivated, the chief said Monday.

Zimmerman said the suspect called his ex on the phone during the shooting, demanding that she listen in as he shot people.

The group of friends also gave updates on their friends still in the hospital. One 24-year-old victim had just moved to San Diego two weeks ago. She was shot twice in her calves; she is now recovering after surgery.

Clark's family has set up a GoFundMe. To donate, click here. A GoFundMe has been set up for injured victims of the mass shooting. To donate, click here.

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