Some survivors say racism may have played a role in a white gunman’s shooting rampage at a weekend pool party attended mostly by black guests, but San Diego police said Wednesday they still have found no evidence to support those suspicions.
Assistant Chief Brian Ahearn said investigators have interviewed party guests and family members, associates and the ex-girlfriend of gunman Peter Selis.
Police also searched his apartment, social media accounts and email while determining he opened fire because he was despondent about a recent breakup with his girlfriend.
“He made no statements, gestures, and showed no behavior toward the group that were racially tinged that would then classify this as a hate crime,” Ahearn said. “I’m not suggesting that maybe that didn’t happen but we have zero information suggesting that was the case.”
Some survivors said they believe Selis selected minority victims at the upscale apartment complex where one woman was killed and six people were wounded. Five of the victims were black, one was Latino and one was white.
Navy Lt. j.g. Lauren Chapman, who was at the party, said the gunman avoided shooting at least one white woman.
Chapman later spoke to the woman, who said the gunman told her, “‘you can either leave or you can stay here and die,'” as she tried to help Monique Clark, a black woman and mother of three children who was killed. The woman could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press.
Two white women sitting much closer to the gunman than those who were shot also escaped unharmed, Chapman said.
“I’m a realistic person and we need to acknowledge race was a factor,” said Chapman, who is black. “Maybe it wasn’t everything, but it was definitely something. We need to get that dialogue open. Yes, he was bankrupt. Yes, he had relationship issues, but I think we need to acknowledge the possibility of bias.”
Selis had filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and again in 2015.
Mychael Gary, another black party guest, agreed. He said Selis seemed to calmly pick out his victims.
“”I believe the group that he was going after was targeted, that’s what I believe,” Gary told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Chapman said the white woman who was shot was sitting at a table surrounded by African Americans.
Ahearn confirmed that Selis told a white woman to leave the area and added that he told a black woman helping another victim that she could not move the person to safety but he would not shoot her if she stayed put. She did not move and was not shot.
Police have said the 49-year-old Selis briefly called his ex-girlfriend during the Sunday night shooting and said he was “shooting it out.” He was killed by police after firing his .45-caliber handgun at a sergeant and two officers.
The ex-girlfriend and others who knew Selis told police they did not believe he was a racist, and investigators found no racist propaganda, emails or other materials, Ahearn said.
“Based upon the facts that we have, this group was shot at because it was compact and a large number of people in close proximity to Selis at the moment in time when he decided to shoot innocent people,” he said.
Selis’ family said they could not explain the “senseless acts” of violence.
“We cannot understand what would have caused Pete to do this,” the family said in a statement sent to KFMB-TV (http://bit.ly/2pIw5kx ). “Words cannot express our profound grief and sorrow for all the victims and their families. … We will miss our beloved Pete forever.”