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Fashion Island shooting suspect 'totally different,' cousin says

December 18, 2012 |  6:09 am

The man accused of firing more than 50 rounds into the air at a busy Newport Beach shopping mall on Saturday seemed "totally different" at his grandmother's wake two days before, a cousin said.

Jacob Avalos told KTLA the wake was the last time he saw his cousin, Marcos Gurrola, 42, who remained in Orange County Jail on Tuesday on suspicion of shooting at an inhabited dwelling.

Gurrola is accused of firing a semiautomatic handgun dozens of times into the air at a parking lot at Fashion Island before he was taken into custody, Newport Beach police said. No one was wounded in the shooting, although one person was injured fleeing to safety.

The incident came a day after a deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and within a week of another fatal shooting at a shopping mall outside Portland, Ore.

"Everyone is just sad to hear what happened," Avalos said of his family.

Avalos said his cousin "didn't look like himself" at the wake, like he was "just not in his head." He also told the television station that Gurrola used to be in the U.S. Navy and seemed to have changed over the years after returning from war.

"He was just different," Avalos said.

Newport Beach Police Deputy Chief David McGill told The Times that Gurrola appeared to be unemployed. McGill could not confirm reports that the suspect was living in his car but said the vehicle had "a lot of personal items" inside.

Gurrola did not appear to have a criminal history in California. State records showed he was a registered guard-patrolman with the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, an arm of the state Department of Consumer Affairs that licenses and regulates such businesses as locksmiths, repossession firms and private investigators. He also appeared to have a firearm permit that expired in 2001.

McGill characterized Gurrola as someone who was "unhappy about a lot in life and decided this was his best way of releasing his tension."

Authorities said he began firing about 4:30 p.m. Saturday in a parking lot near Macy's. Frightened shoppers ran and store owners locked their doors as police arrived at the upscale, open-air mall.

Some bicycle 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 then put his gun down and his hands in the air and was arrested, McGill said.

Given the recent shootings elsewhere, McGill said he knew just how badly the situation at Fashion Island could have ended.

"Thank God he pointed up," he said. "Luck was on our side."


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-- Kate Mather

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