The Santa shooter was on his way to Canada before his plans went awry, authorities say. And the Christmas Eve Santa massacre was not something that Santa shooter Bruce Pardo came up with on the spur of the moment as an act of revenge against his former wife and in-laws. As more information is gathered about Bruce Pardo, the Christmas Eve Santa shooter, police in Covina, California, are finding that the 45-year-old mild-mannered divorced ex-husband of Sylvia Pardo calmly calculated, organized, and methodically carried out a plan of mass murder that would include his ex-wife. Bruce Pardo did not suddenly snap. The Christmas Eve massacre was one of premeditated deliberation.
Premeditated Mass Murder
It is unknown if Pardo knew of the tradition at the Ortega home (Pardo’s in-laws) of a neighbor showing up in a Santa suit at their annual Christmas Eve party. Since he had been married to Sylvia Pardo for nearly two years, it is safe to assume that he did. According to the Seattle Times and other news sources, Pardo, forearmed with that information and four guns, appeared on the doorstep of Joseph and Alicia Ortega’s home. When an 8-year-old child answered the door, he shot her in the face, then began firing indiscriminately into the gathering of 25 people.
Another indicator that Pardo had planned his attack well in advance was the homemade device he disguised as a present and carried to the door with him. Authorities, working on information gathered at the scene and through eyewitness accounts, say that Pardo stepped into the house after creating initial panic and began to coldly choose his targets. Police believe his intended targets were shot execution style and, when he accomplished that task, Pardo used the homemade device to douse the house in an accelerant.
Initial reports from the scene related that Pardo had taken off his Santa suit before driving away from the house he set ablaze. It is now known that the explosion that started the house fire also caught Pardo’s Santa suit on fire, melting parts of the suit into his skin, precipitating the removal.
Police found Bruce Pardo’s dead body early Christmas morning. Pardo had shot himself in the head at his brother’s house 25 miles from the scene of the Christmas Eve massacre. From the body, the police were able to ascertain that Pardo had been burned badly from the accelerant and the subsequent fire, the pain from which may have precipitated the decision to shoot himself.
On the body, police found $17,000 strapped to Pardo’s legs and inside a girdle around his waist. Police also discovered that Bruce Pardo had booked an airline flight to Canada scheduled to depart on Christmas morning.
It is uncertain what caused Bruce Pardo to change his plans to escape to Canada and commit suicide. An attack of conscience? The severe pain he had to be feeling from the burns received from setting his in-laws house abaze and/or the pieces of Santa suit embedded in his flesh? Neither? Something fathomable only to Bruce Pardo?
But a spur of the moment revenge plan this was not. If Bruce Pardo snapped, it was sometime before he manufactured his accelerant-spraying device, sometime before he loaded the four guns (all of which were discovered empty later) and donned the Santa suit, sometime before he booked the flight to Canada.
And it was sometime before he decided to rig his rental vehicle to explode. Police located Pardo’s vehicle in Sylmar and a bomb squad was brought in to dismantle an improvised explosive device. Using part of his Santa suit, Pardo disguised the explosive device, which detonated as police were attempting to disarm it. Although there was ammunition in the car, the explosion harmed no one.
Christmas Eve Massacre: The Trigger
Covina police believe a bitter divorce settlement between Pardo and his wife, Sylvia, coupled with a lengthy unemployment period and mounting pressures to meet bill payments, may have been the trigger that finally set the unemployed engineer on a course of mass murder. Bruce Pardo got to keep his house in the settlement, but the mortgage was $2700 per month. Pardo was also ordered to pay his ex-wife $10,000 as part of the settlement. Until the divorce, which was finalized on December 18, Pardo had been court ordered to pay his ex-wife $1785 spousal support per month, plus an extra $450 a month to pay an arrearage of $3570 that had been unpaid. Sylvia Pardo got to keep the dog he reportedly doted on as well as the wedding ring he had wanted.
Things had not been going well for Bruce Pardo.
But he had kept it all to himself. His neighbors told reporters he was the nicest guy, as did an usher he worked with at the Catholic church where he sometimes ushered. Some said he and his wife were quiet people. One neighbor, Bong Garcia, said that he had wished him a “Merry Christmas” and told him he was going to a Christmas party.
And he did.
Aftermath: The Santa Massacre
In the aftermath, police have discovered a total of nine bodies in the smoking ruins of the house in Covina. Although none of the bodies were positively identified, a family member said that among the dead, besides Sylvia Pardo and her parents, were the ex-wife’s two brothers, their wives, a sister and a nephew. Her 16-year-old daughter was shot in the back but survived.
Another woman had broken her ankle jumping from the second floor to escape the burning house.
The 8-year-old who was shot in the face was placed in Intensive Care Unit at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. She has been listed as critical.
An Intimate Homicide
Bruce Pardo’s Christmas Eve Santa massacre of his ex-wife’s family is an extreme example of what authorities call “intimate homicide.” Part of the “intimate crimes” designation, an “intimate” crime is the violent criminal action committed by a perpetrator who is close (relationship) to the victim. The Department of Justice lists intimates as spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends.
Bureau of Justice statistics show that there were nearly 65,000 victims of determined inimate homicide from 1976-2005. There were also nearly 210,000 undetermined murders in the same period, leaving the possibility open that there were literally thousands more. And there are the missing murdered, those that have been murdered and are missing but their numbers cannot be added because their exact situation in unknown and police cannot charge the offending individual.
Of all homicides recorded in the twenty-year period, 10.9% were intimate homicides. Nearly 8% of all homicides were against females, such as Sylvia Pardo.
Ex-husbands were found to have been killed by a gun 86% of the time; ex-wives were likely to be killed by a gun 77% of the time.
The overall number of women killed by an intimate dropped from 1993 to 2004.
Mass murder, the crime committed by Bruce Pardo (with the specific intent – it is presumed — of killing his ex-wife), is far more rare and dependant upon the definition of mass murder as opposed to a multiple homicide. Although the Christmas Eve massacre falls short of the number killed at Columbine High School in 1999 or the killings committed by Charles Whitman in the now infamous sniper shootings from the tower on University of Texas campus in 1966, the number is higher than what is generally referred to as a multiple homicide. It is far lower than the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 that left 32 people dead.
Parsing and comparing the information, however, does nothing for the victims, the dead and the surviving. The trauma of the Christmas Eve Santa massacre will no doubt stay with those who escaped the house that night for the rest of their lives. Dealing with the devastation, the loss of a substantial number of family members and friends will impact a significant number of people.
And not because Bruce Pardo simply ‘snapped.’
New York Times