Fashion Island shooting: 'Luck was on our side,' police say
The gunman who fired more than 50 rounds at the busy Fashion Island shopping center in Newport Beach was described by police as a "destitute individual" who decided “this was his way of venting his life problems.”
Marcos Gurrola, 42, used a semi-automatic handgun to fire more than 50 rounds into the air Saturday afternoon before he was taken into custody, authorities said. No one was shot, although authorities said one person was hurt fleeing the scene.
As investigators worked Sunday to determine a motive, Newport Beach Police Deputy Chief David McGill characterized Gurrola as someone who was "unhappy about a lot in life and decided this was his best way of releasing his tension."
"It's just one of those things where you scratch your head and go, 'Really?'" McGill told The Times.
Gurrola — who remains in Orange County Jail on a charge of shooting at an inhabited dwelling — appeared to be unemployed, McGill said. McGill could not confirm reports the suspect was living in his car, but said the vehicle had "a lot of personal items" inside.
Court records did not indicate Gurrola had a criminal history but state records showed he was a registered guard/patrol person with the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. That license expires in January.
Lt. Jon Lewis stressed there was "no connection" between Gurrola's alleged acts and a shooting Friday at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.
Gurrola allegedly began shooting outside a Macy's about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Given the Newtown shooting, McGill said he was "terrified" when he got the initial call.
All he thought, he said, was, "Oh my gosh, here we go."
Some officers were already in the area — part of an effort to curb theft at the mall during the holiday shopping season — and police were able to find the suspect almost immediately, McGill said. Gurrola allegedly put his gun down and his hands in the air and was arrested without incident.
McGill said Newport Beach police train for active shooter scenarios at various locations and had specifically been in contact with mall security in recent months. They started monthly meetings about eight months ago and have a “great relationship” with security, both at the mall and at individual stores like Macy’s.
That relationship proved important Saturday, he said, adding that Newport Beach police knew their counterparts at the mall personally and how they would respond.
He commended his officers for following their training and reacting like they were trained to.
“They all see thousands of people running away from a madman with a gun, which is what we want them to do, and my guys are the guys running toward him," McGill said. "Our guys did exactly what they are trained to do.”
But, McGill said, given recent events — the Connecticut shooting, along with a Tuesday shooting at a mall outside Portland, Ore., where a gunman killed two people and wounded another — Newport Beach police recognize just how badly the situation at Fashion Island could have ended.
"It scares the heck out of me. ... The police — we keep preparing and keep preparing because this makes us nervous. We can't be 100% prepared but we're constantly working on it," he said.
"Thank God he pointed up," he added. "Luck was on our side."
— Kate Mather
Photo: Marcos Gurrola. Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Department