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USC shooting: 'I didn't know if it was real or a Halloween gun'

November 2, 2012 |  7:12 am

Simone St. Claire dressed up with her friends as the Three Blind Mice for Halloween night. They wore black glasses, ears on their heads and carried black canes.

The USC freshman from Northern California said they thought the party inside the Ronald Tutor Campus Center would be their safest choice, on campus, away from rowdy Fraternity Row. The crowd outside was well-behaved despite a "chaotic" scene of about 100 people trying to enter the party, St. Claire said.

Officers patted down revelers down before they entered, she said. Some people not from USC said they couldn't enter because they didn’t have college IDs, she said.

PHOTOS: Shooting at USC Halloween party

"People were just having fun, walking around introducing themselves," she said.

But around 11:45 p.m. -- as St. Claire and her friends waited outside in line -- gunshots rang out in the crowd, not far from the university's iconic Tommy Trojan statue. Four people were wounded, and the campus was placed on lockdown.

"I didn't know if it was real or if it was a Halloween gun or something," said the 18-year old French major who is also enrolled in a pre-med program. She said that as she heard the gunshots, people yelled, "Get down!" and someone pushed her to the ground.

"I have bruises on my knees," she said Thursday afternoon, wearing a gray USC sweatshirt.

She said she started running away but eventually walked back toward the area, where she saw a man who was shot in the stomach, surrounded by police and friends.

"He was laying down on the grass, bleeding," she said.

St. Claire, who said she had a panic attack after the shooting, called her parents in Redwood City early Thursday morning, because she wanted them to hear of the shooting from her.

“No one calls at 2 o’clock in the morning with good news,” Don St. Claire, Simone's father said.

The incident, he said, was "very disturbing, particularly since she was right in the mix of everything."

The Halloween shooting was the second security issue they've faced since Simone came on campus, Don St. Claire said. Her laptop was stolen from her dorm a few weeks ago. The fact that someone could enter a secured dorm building and room "bothered me more at some level than the shooting," he said.

Although his daughter was shaken, Don St. Claire said one of the first things she stated when she called was: "Please don't tell me you're going to make me transfer."

He won't, he said. And he doesn't know how the university could have prevented an incident like Wednesday's.

"I don't expect, nor would I want a locked-down campus where everyone walks through metal detectors to get on and off campus," he said. "I’m disturbed by it, but I'm also a little bit of a loss at what could have been done differently."

Still, Simone said she is leaving Friday evening to go home for the weekend.

"My parents realized I needed to get away," she said.

The shooting victims and suspected gunman were not USC students but were on campus apparently trying to get into the Halloween party in the student center. The violence sprang from an argument between two of them, police said.

One victim was badly wounded and remained hospitalized in intensive care; the others suffered less serious injuries. Two suspects were chased by campus security officers and quickly taken into custody.


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-- Andrew Khouri at USC