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Child greeting 'Santa' was first victim, police say

  • Story Highlights
  • Pardo shot 8-year-old at ex-in-laws' home as she ran toward him
  • Pardo carried gift-wrapped, homemade device to spread fire
  • Eight found dead after shootings, fire at the Los Angeles-area house
  • Suspected gunman found dead at relative's house, police say
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Dressed as Santa, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo walked up to his ex-in-laws' home in Covina, California, on Christmas Eve and knocked on the door.

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo was sought for a Christmas party shooting before taking his own life, police said.

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo was sought for a Christmas party shooting before taking his own life, police said.

An 8-year-old girl, elated to see Santa, ran toward the door.

That's when, police say, Pardo lifted a gun and shot her in the face.

Pardo, 45, with a gun in one hand and a wrapped present in the other, began shooting indiscriminately, police said at a news conference Thursday.

He sprayed the living room with bullets. Video Watch police describe the child getting shot »

Nearly 25 friends and family members were at the home for an annual Christmas party.

Some ran, some took cover under furniture, some broke windows in an effort to escape -- one woman jumped from the second-story of the home, police said.

Neighbors heard gunfire and called 911 shortly before 11:30 p.m. Police said they arrived within three minutes to find the home engulfed in flames.

Police said Thursday afternoon that six bodies had been recovered. The Los Angeles County coroner's office later said two more bodies had been recovered. The names of the victims have not yet been released by authorities.

Police said they have not accounted for three people: Pardo's ex-mother-in-law, ex-father-in-law and ex-wife -- whom he recently divorced. The 8-year-old, whose injuries indicate the bullet went straight through her face, is recovering at a hospital in Los Angeles, police said.

"She has a very, very severe injury to her face. It's not life-threatening, but she's got a very tough road ahead of her," Lt. Pat Buchanan of the Covina Police Department said Thursday.

A 16-year-old with a gunshot wound and the woman who jumped out the window were also being treated at the hospital.

Police believe that after Pardo stopped shooting he unwrapped his gift -- a home-made device used to spread fire -- and used it to set the house ablaze. Video Watch firefighters on the scene of the inferno »

Buchanan said the device was "something we have never seen before." Covina Police Chief Kim Raney described it as a pressurized tank attached to another tank filled with accelerant.

Police believe that after Pardo set fire to the home, he changed into his regular clothing, went to another relative's home in the nearby Sylmar area and committed suicide.

Authorities identified Pardo's body, said Buchanan.

Police have not released the identities of any of his alleged victims.

At the news conference Ed Winter, assistant chief Los Angeles County coroner, said the recovered bodies were "severely burned and charred," making it necessary to use dental and medical records, and X-rays to establish identities.

The intense fire caused the top floor of the two-story house to collapse onto the first floor, according to Winter.

Raney said Pardo's former in-laws regularly have a party Christmas Eve and that one neighbor always arrives dressed as Santa. This year, that neighbor was away, police said.

Police suggested marital problems as a possible motive for the attack and said they believe Pardo and his wife of one year finally settled a contentious divorce last week.


Authorities said Pardo's name was given to them by people who were at the party.

Police also said they recovered multiple weapons from inside the house.

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