Police: Santa gunman planned to flee to Canada but was burned

The shooter was angry after last week’s settlement of his divorce, police say.

COVINA, Calif. (AP) — Law enforcement officials in Southern California say the gunman who killed nine people in a Christmas Eve bloodbath at his ex-in-laws’ Covina home intended to flee to Canada but was severely burned before he killed himself.

Police said Friday that after the shooting, 45-year-old Bruce Jeffrey Pardo used a homemade device to spray racing fuel around the home and that the vapor was ignited by a pilot light or candle. He suffered third-degree burns on both arms when it exploded.

Authorities say Pardo’s Santa suit actually melted onto his body before he fled.

After Pardo shot himself to death at his brother’s home, authorities found $17,000 on him and a plane ticket for a flight from Los Angeles to Canada.

Pardo reached a Dec. 18 settlement with his ex-wife, who along with her parents was believed to be among the dead. His lawyer and a fellow church usher were among those who said they had never seen anything to indicate he was capable of such a brutal crime.

Pardo’s attorney, Stanley Silver, said his client seemed cheerful when he left a message two days before the shooting and was trying to pay $10,000 to finalize the divorce proceedings.

“All of my dealings with him were always pleasant and cheerful,” Silver said. “I’d never encountered him when he was ... angry or unpleasant at all.”

Pardo left the scene of the killings and was found dead Thursday, of a single bullet to the head, at his brother’s house.

The body of his ninth victim was found Friday morning when investigators resumed searching what was left of the two-story home on a cul-de-sac in Covina, 25 miles east of Los Angeles.

Eight bodies were recovered Thursday from the destroyed house; it was not yet known whether the gunfire or the flames killed them. None of the dead or missing has been identified.

The bloodbath began about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when an 8-year-old girl attending a Christmas Eve party answered a knock at the door. A man dressed as Santa and carrying what appeared to be a present pulled out a handgun and shot her in the face, then began shooting indiscriminately as partygoers tried to flee.

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. Court documents showed Pardo had been employed at the radar division of ITT Electronic Systems, a military defense supplier, until July.

Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry after last week’s settlement of his divorce after a short marriage.

“No counseling or delay could help restore this marriage,” the settlement stated.

2008, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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