LOS ANGELES, Dec 26 – At least six people were killed after a man dressed as Santa Claus burst into a Christmas Eve party and opened fire before later killing himself, police said Thursday.,
The body of Bruce Pardo, 45, was found with self-inflicted gunshot wounds early Thursday, hours after he had launched an assault on a party hosted by the parents of his ex-wife in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina, police said.
Local media reported that Pardo’s former spouse was among three people who remained missing Thursday as the number of dead rose to six after three more bodies were pulled from the charred wreckage of the crime scene.
Pardo had knocked on the door of the home in a quiet residential neighborhood in Covina, 23 miles (37 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, just before midnight on Christmas Eve, police lieutenant Pat Buchanan said.
Local media reports said Pardo was let into the house by revelers who thought he had been hired as entertainment for children at the party.
But once inside, he produced a handgun from beneath his costume and opened fire, spraying party-goers with bullets.
After terrified revelers fled the scene, Pardo then reportedly torched the house with a homemade incendiary device before making his getaway.
He was found dead from a single gunshot to the head at his home in Sylmar, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) away, a few hours later, police said.
Police had received a series of emergency calls alerting them to the initial incident, and when they arrived, the house was engulfed in flames and guests were running out, Buchanan said.
Neighbors reported hearing a loud explosion before the blaze erupted.
Two girls, age 16 and eight, were hospitalized with gunshot wounds and a 13-year-old girl was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.
Around 80 firefighters were deployed to tackle the fire that destroyed the house. Popping sounds — possibly ammunition rounds exploding — were heard throughout the blaze.
After the fire was extinguished, rescuers found three bodies in the basement, Buchanan said.
Buchanan told CBS2 television the shooting was "extremely unusual and very shocking." "It’s just not something we see here at any time of the year — especially during Christmas," he said.
Police were searching Pardo’s home Thursday for clues to his bloody rampage.
"Maybe there’s some (sign of) planning, maybe letters or anything that will give us more clues about the state of his mind," Detective Antonio Zavala was quoted as saying by the New York Times.