California Ham Killed in Shooting Spree
A gunman, apparently enraged over a custody dispute with his ex-wife, walked into a hair salon in Seal Beach, California on October 12. Scott Evans Dekraai allegedly opened fire in the salon, killing eight people, including his ex-wife. David Caouette, N6DAC -- who was waiting outside the salon in his car -- was killed in the rampage. He was 64.
“He was shot in his very recognizable off road-ready Land Rover Discovery while sitting in the parking lot on his way into his favorite restaurant,” Darrin Simmons, W7UNI, told the ARRL. Simmons, who called himself Caouette’s best friend, said that he and Caouette were off road driving instructors: “We have been taking customers out on free off road trips since 2003. Back in late 2007, we had some trouble communicating with CB radios in Big Bear. I was fed up with not being able to contact my team that was staggered throughout the line of 30 vehicles. Soon after that, in March 2008, I contacted Gordon West, WB6NOA, and he got us into a ham radio licensing class. I remember it well; it was a rainy weekend and Gordon had us all in the garage on one of the days. That was quite a sight. Since then, we have had many, many off road trips with a core group of ham radio operators and have loved every minute of it. We will miss Dave with all our hearts.”
Ed Testa, KI6OJV, a longtime friend of Caouette’s, told The Orange County Register that Caouette “was in the wrong place at the wrong time and had no way to defend himself. We are just in disbelief that he could have been involved in this tragedy.” Testa said that he had heard that Caouette was visiting one of the restaurants next to the salon where the shooting occurred.
According to The Orange County Register, Caouette had worked at Land Rover Mission Viejo starting around 2003 as a salesman. He left that job several years ago, but kept in touch with several friends he met at the dealership in weekend off-road events. “We were the gang of four -- Dave, me, Rich Guzman, KR1CHG, and Darrin Simmons,” he said. “Dave was the leader. He knew all the trails, and he was always at the front of the pack.”
KCBS -- the CBS owned-and-operated television station in Los Angeles -- reported that Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said that the deadly rampage started at 1:20 PM when Dekraai, 41, walked into Salon Meritage with the intent to murder his ex-wife Michelle Fournier and any other people who may have been present. He was wearing a bullet proof vest and armed with three handguns -- a 9 mm pistol, a .44 magnum and a .45 caliber pistol. “He walked through the salon shooting anyone close enough to hit,” Rackauckas said, calling the incident a “two-minute massacre.” By 1:21 PM, Rackauckas said Dekraai walked through the salon, methodically executing employees and customers. The victims were shot up close repeatedly. Dekraai allegedly stopped to reload when his ammunition ran out. He then continued firing as people lay dying, according to authorities. “Dekraai shot victim after victim, executing people by shooting them in the head and chest,” Rackauckas said. According to the DA, Dekraai then walked out of the salon and allegedly executed the driver of a Range Rover parked next to him.
A police officer saw Dekraai leaving the area as police were responding to reports of gunfire. He was arrested about half a mile away and is the sole suspect in the rampage. Dekraai made his first appearance in Orange County Superior Court on October 15, but his arraignment on eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder was continued to November 29. Rackauckas has announced that he will be seeking the death penalty for Dekraai.
Caouette is survived by his wife Paula and three children. A memorial service is planned for 4-8 PM October 17 at Patty’s Place Restaurant, 500 Pacific Coast Hwy, Seal Beach, California. -- Thanks to The Orange County Register, KCBS and Darrin Simmons, W7UNI, for the information