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Man in Santa suit kills 8, self on Christmas Eve
COVINA, Calif. (AP) — Stinging from an acrimonious divorce, a man plotting revenge against his ex-wife dressed up like Santa, went to his former in-laws' Christmas Eve party and slaughtered at least eight people before killing himself hours later.
Bruce Pardo's ex-wife and her parents were believed to be among the dead. Investigators planned to return to the scene Friday and sift through the ashes of the home, which Pardo set ablaze using a bizarre homemade device that sprayed flammable liquid.
Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry following last week's settlement of his divorce after a marriage that lasted barely a year.
"It was not an amicable divorce," police Lt. Pat Buchanan said.
Pardo chose to exact his revenge at the annual Christmas party his former in-laws held at their two-story home on a cul-de-sac in a quiet Covina neighborhood 25 miles east of Los Angeles.
"Christmases were that special time of the year, it meant so much to them," Rosa Ordaz, a family friend of the victims, told KCBS-TV.
In past years, a neighbor dressed as Santa Claus and entertained guests. But the neighbor had moved away and there was no Santa — until Pardo arrived around 11:30 p.m.
The massacre began when an 8-year-old girl answered Pardo's knock at the door. Pardo, carrying what appeared to be a large present, pulled out a handgun and shot her in the face, then began shooting indiscriminately as about 25 partygoers tried to flee, police said at a news conference.
A 16-year-old girl was shot in the back, and a 20-year-old woman broke her ankle when she escaped by jumping from a second-story window. Those two, and the 8-year-old, remained hospitalized Christmas Day. All were expected to recover.
The gift-wrapped box Pardo was carrying actually contained a pressurized homemade device he used to spray a liquid that quickly sent the house up in flames. Police said Pardo had recently worked is the aerospace industry.
David Salgado, a neighbor, said he saw the 8-year-old victim being escorted to an ambulance by four SWAT team members as flames up to 40 feet high consumed the house.
"It was really ugly," Salgado said.
Another neighbor, Jan Gregory, said she saw a teenage boy flee the home, screaming, "`They shot my family.'"
When the fire was extinguished early Thursday, officers found three charred bodies in the living room area.
"They were met with a scene that was just indescribable," police Chief Kim Raney said. Investigators found five more bodies amid the ashes later in the day and planned to return Friday to continue looking.
None of the dead or missing has been identified. Authorities were unable to immediately determine whether the victims were killed by the flames or the gunfire.
Following the shootings, Pardo quickly got out of the Santa suit and drove off, witnesses told police. He went to his brother's home about 25 miles away in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles. No one was home, so Pardo let himself in, police said.
Police were called to the home early Thursday, and officers found Pardo dead of a single bullet to the head. Two handguns were found at the scene, and two more were discovered in the wreckage of his former in-laws' house.
A car that Pardo apparently parked near his brother's home exploded Thursday evening and more ammunition was found in it, Los Angeles police Sgt. Francisco Wheeling said. She had no immediate details on what set off the explosion. No one was hurt.
Investigators seeking further information about Pardo's motives have begun searching his home in the suburban Los Angeles community of Montrose.
Pardo's next-door neighbor, who did not want her name published to protect her privacy, said he moved in more than a year ago with a woman and a child. She said they kept mostly to themselves and the woman later moved out with the child.
Pardo was often seen walking a dog around the neighborhood and working on his lawn, the neighbor said.
He also served regularly as an usher at evening Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jan Detanna, the head usher at the church, was stunned when told about the violence.
"I'm just — this is shocking," Detanna told the Times. "He was the nicest guy you could imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile."
Bong Garcia, another of Pardo's next-door neighbors, told the Times he saw Pardo between 9 and 10 p.m. Christmas Eve and spoke briefly to him. Pardo told him he was on his way to a Christmas party, Garcia said.
Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen contributed to this report.