A lone gunman sprayed bullets from a car in a drive-by shooting in a southern California college town, killing at least seven people before his car crashed and he was found dead inside, authorities said on Saturday.
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Seven more people were wounded in what the Santa Barbara County Sheriff described as a premeditated atrocity late on Friday in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
"This incident appears to be a mass murder situation," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told a televised news conference. "We currently have seven people confirmed dead, that includes the suspect and six victims."
Witnesses reported seeing a black BMW speeding through the streets and spraying bullets at people and other targets in Isla Vista, a beachside community where many college students live, California's KEYT-TV reported.
Witness Xavier Mozejewski told the station the incident was like an "old western shoot-out."
College student Brad Martin told a University of California at Santa Barbara student newspaper that his girlfriend was "absolutely hysterical" after being approached by the gunman with a weapon she initially was not sure was real.
"She said the next second he raised it up to her face ... and she turned around and started running. That's when she heard 'bang, bang, bang' right behind her as she was running," Martin told the Daily Nexus.
The sheriff said deputies twice exchanged fire with the gunman before his vehicle crashed and he was found dead inside from a gunshot wound to the head. Authorities recovered a semiautomatic handgun, he said.
"We have obtained and are currently analyzing both written and videotaped evidence that suggests this atrocity was a premeditated mass murder," Brown said, describing the shooting as the "obviously the work of a madman."
Brown could not immediately say whether the suspected gunman was killed by deputies in the exchange of fire or died of a self-inflicted wound, nor did he identify the gunman or say whether he was a student.