Gunman kills four near California college

A police officer is seen by a bullet riddled car
A police officer is seen by a bullet riddled car Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A gunman dressed in killed at least four people in a string of shootings through the Californian town of Santa Monica on Friday before he was shot dead by police in a community college library, law enforcement officials said.

At least five other people were wounded, one of them critically, in the shooting rampage that unfolded just a few miles from where President Barack Obama was speaking at a political fundraiser elsewhere in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles.

As the gunman lay dead on a sidewalk outside the Santa Monica College library, a second individual was taken into custody near the campus and described by police as a "person of interest" in the case.

Obama completed his remarks at his event without interruption and left town for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping near the desert resort community of Palm Springs. The bloodshed did not appear to be related to Obama's visit and the Secret Service called it a "local police matter."

The killing spree marked the latest in string of high-profile mass shootings over the past year, including a December attack in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school.

Read more: Sandy Hook Elementary School

The attacks have helped re-ignite a contentious national debate over gun violence in America that spurred Obama and his fellow Democrats nationwide to push for expanded background checks for gun buyers - an initiative defeated in the U.S. Senate.

Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the shooting rampage began east of the college campus shortly before noon when police received multiple reports of a house fire, a carjacking and shootings in the area.

The bodies of two people were discovered at the fire scene and four more bodies were found.

Three women who were shot, one of whom was found in her car outside the burning home, were rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where one later died.