COVINA, Calif. - A man dressed as Santa who had been having marital problems opened fire at a Christmas party, leaving more than three people dead in a home that then caught fire, authorities said.
Hours later, police found the body of the suspect, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, at the home of his brother early Thursday in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles. Police said he killed himself but would not say how.
'He was going through some type of marital problems, and we believe that this residence is a relative's residence,' Lt. Pat Buchanan said of the house that burned.
Police initally said three people were dead in the shootings and fire late Wednesday. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said Thursday that investigators sifting through the ashes of the house found 'several' more bodies, but would not say how many.
The bodies were too badly burned to immediately determine whether they died in the shootings or the fire, Winter said. 'We have multiple bodies inside,' Winter said. 'They're extremely charred and burned.'
The gunman arrived at the party in Covina late Wednesday and immediately opened fire with a handgun, Buchanan said. Witnesses told police that the man took off the Santa suit and left the scene of the burning house in street clothes.
Winter said the search through the destroyed home would take at least until the end of the day.
Jan Gregory, a neighbor, said about 25 people were at the party when the gunshots rang out and people started running by the house.
She said she saw a teenage boy run from the house screaming, 'They shot my family.'
Buchanan said three other people were injured. A woman in her 20s and an 8-year-old girl had gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening, and a third person had a broken ankle.
Police received several 911 calls with reports of shots fired at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and were still hearing gunshots after they arrived and found the house in flames, Buchanan said.
At first, firefighters were held back by police because shots were still being fired, though it may have been ammunition burning in the blaze, fire Captain Mike Brown said.
Firefighters had extinguished the blaze by about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, fire Captain Mike Brown said.
The two-story home on a cul-de-sac was destroyed in Covina, a quiet suburb 25 miles east of Los Angeles.