Nightly News   |  October 13, 2011

Suspected salon gunman was in bitter custody battle

Six women and two men died in the attack at a Southern California salon on Wednesday, when a gunman burst through the door and began shooting. His ex-wife's attorney said he was seeking full custody of their son, but a court recommended against it. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And now to a story that was just breaking as we came on the air last night, a shooting rampage in a beauty salon in the seaside town of Seal Beach , California . The folks who live there say the target was the gunman's ex-wife; the issue was a custody battle over their eight-year-old son. NBC 's Kristen Dahlgren is with us from Seal Beach tonight. Kristen , good evening.

KRISTEN DAHLGREN reporting: Good evening, Brian . Here outside the scene of the massacre, the memorial and the grief are both growing. This is a community still in shock as today we learn more about who the victims were and also what may have sent the alleged gunman over the edge. In a small town like Seal Beach , almost everyone knows someone touched by the tragedy...

Ms. MARY STEARNS: He was just a great guy.

DAHLGREN: ...like Mary Stearns , a 30-year client of salon owner Randy Fannin , one of eight killed yesterday when a gunman entered his crowded salon and opened fire. Fannin 's wife escaped but at a terrible cost. She saw him get shot?

Ms. STEARNS: Yeah. I don't know how she's going to live with that.

DAHLGREN: Police say 41-year-old Scott Dekraai was in full body armor with multiple weapons when he entered the salon. Minutes after the shooting...

Offscreen Voice: Keep your hands behind your head!

DAHLGREN: ...he surrendered peacefully. And while police still won't discuss a motive, his ex-wife, Michelle , was a stylist here. Friends say she was also one of the victims and in a custody battle with Dekraai over their eight-year-old son. John Cate was Michelle 's attorney.

Mr. JOHN CATE: From the very first time I met her she had indicated to me that she was frightened of him.

DAHLGREN: But Dekraai 's neighbors say they were shocked to see him on the news...

Ms. PATTY KAZEMPOR (Neighbor): My husband said, 'No, that's not him.' He said he has -- he's talked to the man many times and he was saying how loving he is.

Mr. CLAYTON CORNHALL (Neighbor): He was always a nice guy. We -- my dad passed a couple years ago; he'd come over, help out. He actually took the trash out for me a couple times unexpectedly.

DAHLGREN: ...leaving a community to wonder just why this happened and clinging to each other in their grief.

Ms. JUDY WATSON (Victim's Friend): He devastated many people today, but we're going to -- we're going to be all right.

DAHLGREN: Now, there is a vigil planned here tonight. Also, charges against Dekraai are expected to be filed tomorrow. And, Brian , the one shooting victim who did survive is still in critical condition, but police say she is showing signs of improvement and expected to pull through.

WILLIAMS: Kristen Dahlgren , Seal Beach , California tonight. Kristen , thanks.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: A 31 -year-old Connecticut man was