Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, recently divorced and without a job, arrived on the doorstep of his ex-wife's parents at 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a large present in one hand and a semi automatic handgun in the other. When a young 8 year old girl opened the door, he shot her in the face and opened fire on the two dozen people inside the Covina, California home, killing eight and wounding two.
The home on a quiet Knollcrest Drive cul-de-sac some 22 miles from L.A., was then torched by Pardo. The former engineer who had worked in the aerospace industry, had gift wrapped a 2-1/2 foot high pressurized tank that had been converted into a homemade flame thrower. He used it to propel a highly flammable liquid throughout the home before he fled the scene.
According to Captain Mike Brown, it took 80 firefighters several hours to bring the 40 to 50 foot high flames under control. Nine bodies have been recovered in the smoldering carnage. Among the missing and presumed to have died are Pardo's ex-wife and her parents 80 year old Joseph Ortega and 70 year old Alicia Ortega.
Several of the party-goers were able to escape through a backdoor and rushed to neighboring homes. Among those were an 8 year old girl and a 16 year old girl, who were taken to area hospitals with gunshot wounds. Both are expected to recover.
Police received a call at 3:30 a.m. from Pardo's brother who summoned them to his home in Sylmar, 25 miles away from the scene of the crime. When they arrived they found Bruce Pardo dead from a self inflicted single gun shot to his head. Police later discovered that he had booby trapped his car with a pipebomb - which later exploded. A bomb squad reports that no one was injured in that surprise twist.
Bruce Pardo had lived in Montrose with his wife and her three children until they separated in the spring of 2008 after a marriage that lasted one year. Their divorce was filed in September and the settlement was reached last week.
Pardo, as in the past, had volunteered to serve as an usher at midnight mass on Christmas Eve but he never made it to Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Jan Detanna, head usher at Holy Redeemer said, "I'm just--this is shocking. He was the nicest guy you can imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile."
During a news conference this morning, police indicate Pardo was carrying $17,000 in cash and had a plane ticket from Los Angeles to Canada. Police believe that he altered his getaway plan because he was suffering from third degree burns to his body. He broke into his brothers home and killed himself instead.
See the video below and additional photos.