JENNIFER GOT HER GUN: They called Jennifer San Marco “the crazy lady.” But she still got an official okay to buy the gun she used to kill six people at the Goleta mail-handling facility seven years ago this week, along with a former neighbor.
She was loony but not crazy enough to be denied the right to pay $325 for a 15-round, 9 mm Smith & Wesson model 915 handgun about six months before the murderous rampage.
San Marco, 44, was obsessed with racial hatred and so paranoid that she thought her former workmates were conspiring against her. Writings found back at her home in New Mexico indicated that she felt they were out to get her.
True, San Marco had been hauled out of the Goleta postal facility in 2003 for bizarre behavior, trundled out on a mail cart by sheriff’s deputies after they dragged her out from under a sorting machine. She spent three days on an involuntary hold in a Ventura psychiatric facility and was then released. It’s not known whether she received any therapy there or anywhere else.
Placed on retirement disability and driving across country to East Coast relatives, she got stuck in Milan, N.M., where her car broke down. There she became known as a nutcase, harassing clerks and putting out a jumble of rantings called The Racist Press. Once, she apparently doffed some or all of her clothes at a service station. (She was clothed when cops arrived. They gave her a warning.)
But when she went to Ace Pawn & Antiques in Grants, N.M., to buy a handgun in August 2005, she cleared the required background check with flying colors. New Mexico is known for its weak gun laws, just as California is relatively strict.
San Marco ranted against minorities but was never violent, never arrested or committed to a booby hatch. Two months before San Marco’s rampage, a mental health clinic manager noticed her kneeling before her car in a post office parking lot in nearby Grants, N.M., talking to herself and under the delusion that her brother and sister were there.
The woman said she called police, hoping it would lead to San Marco getting a mental evaluation. Police have no record of the call and apparently nothing came of it. An opportunity was missed.
Because the pawn shop background check showed that she had never been officially adjudicated as “mentally defective,” she passed and got the gun.
Meanwhile, San Marco’s simmering rage was boiling over. First to die was Beverly Graham, 54, her former neighbor in Goleta. Her condominium neighbors heard what sounded like gunshots sometime after 7 p.m. on January 30, 2006.
Years earlier, Graham had complained about San Marco’s loud singing. This was her revenge. At around 9 p.m., she drove into the Goleta postal facility’s parking lot at 400 Storke Road, getting through the gate by following an employee’s car. (Security has improved since then.) In the lot, she took another worker’s key card at gunpoint.
He lived because he wasn’t her target. Minority people were. On that night of terror, most of the 80 employees survived the onslaught; six unlucky ones died, all people of color. Arriving officers found two bodies in the employee parking area and one just outside the door. A fourth worker was found just inside, critically wounded.
One story that emerged is that as she pointed the gun at one woman, she apparently ran out of bullets and needed to reload. That gave the intended victim, along with other panicked workers, time to flee. San Marco killed two more workers before turning the gun on herself.
Dead at the scene were Ze Fairchild, 37, and Maleka Brinley-Higgins Pineda, 28, of Santa Barbara. Pineda was just back from maternity leave. Also Dexter Shannon, 57, of Oxnard, and Lompoc residents Nicola Grant, 42, and Guadalupe Swartz, 53. Charlotte Colton, 44, mother of three, of Santa Barbara, was pronounced dead at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Since then, six trees have been planted in memory of the six and a plaque bearing their names placed in an unobtrusive location. New hires have come and gone, and memories have faded. But many remember and honor their former workmates and friends.
California has a 10-day waiting period and background check. But due to a lack of national gun control laws, a resident can buy a weapon at a gun show in Arizona or Nevada, load it up, and drive home to California.