SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Carolyn Hunter had just returned from the beach and was feeding the horses at her home on Mellow Lane in suburban Los Angeles when gunfire burst out across the street.
"It was like a canon, and by the second shot, I ducked. ... Then three more shots were fired," Hunter said. "It was like, boom, boom, boom, (with) a second between each one."
As she called police, her neighbor's 29-year-old son fled on a tractor along a horse trail, armed with a handgun that police say he aimed at shocked neighbors in their front yards, setting off a wave of 911 calls.
Investigators Monday were still trying to determine what led to the shooting Saturday in which Simi Valley police say Ryan Carnan killed his mother before leaving their home ablaze. He died roughly 30 minutes later in a shootout with police when officers caught up to him on the tractor.
"Unfortunately, Ryan and his mother Sally are really the only two people that know exactly what occurred in that residence, and what contributed to the events occurring at all," said police Cmdr. Stephanie Shannon.
Ventura County court records obtained Monday show that Sally Ann Carnan, 67, filed for a restraining order in July 2008 against her son Ryan because of concerns of domestic violence. The restraining order was granted for three years.
Ryan Carnan, who served in the military, was never arrested but had three mental health-related contacts with Simi Valley police, most recently in July 2008, Shannon said.
Sally Carnan, a widow and beloved secretary at a nearby Santa Susana Magnet High School, had just celebrated her daughter's wedding at the house a month ago. On Monday, grief counselors were on hand at the school.
Family members did not respond to requests for comment.
Police were alerted to the killing on Mellow Lane in suburban Los Angeles at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday by a phone call from the shooter's brother, who told them Ryan had just called to say he had shot their mother in their home.
Carnan apparently fled roughly half a mile along a horse trail by tractor before police killed him in the shootout that's under investigation.
Hunter said she and another neighbor immediately suspected Sally's son Ryan when they realized where the gunshots came from. Ryan had a temper and had sometimes thrown tantrums in high school, rushing outdoors hollering and throwing things.
His truck was in the driveway Saturday.
"We went, `Oh my God, he shot her,'" Hunter said. The neighbor ran to the house in her flip-flops and shorts, pounding on the door to try to save Sally. But nobody answered. Smoke could be seen coming from a window.
The Carnan family home is on about 2 acres, and while many neighbors own horses, the Carnans do not. Their backyard featured a professional-style paintball course.
"They didn't have horses, they played paintball," Hunter said. "Their whole backyard behind the steep hill was set up with the wood plywood boards to hide behind. He was a good aim ... between paintballing and the military."
Police said Monday that Carnan carried a handgun with him, and he had advanced firearms skills and training. They declined to say whether it was registered to him or legally in his possession.
Hunter said Carnan had a temper problem but there were no indications he'd take such drastic actions. Often he'd be spotted out mowing the grass or at local garage sales.
"The mother loved her son, for whatever problems she had, she was there for him," Hunter said. "It was a tragedy it happened."