Halloween terror: 4 killed at Northern California party

National News

ORINDA, Calif. (AP) — Four people were killed and at least four injured at a Halloween party shooting at a Northern California home rented by a woman who falsely claimed she wanted the Airbnb so her asthmatic family members could escape wildfire smoke, officials and a person with knowledge of the transaction said Friday.

Gunshots were reported at about 10:45 p.m. Thursday at the large home, surrounded by trees and up a steep hill in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Orinda, where more than 100 people had gathered, police said. The home had been rented on Airbnb by a woman who told the owner her dozen family members needed a place with fresh air, the person with knowledge of the transaction told The Associated Press.

A one-night rental on Halloween was suspicious enough that before agreeing to rent the home, the owner reminded the renter that no parties were allowed, said the person, who was not authorized to publicly disclose the information and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The renter, whose name and hometown have not been disclosed, told the homeowner that her family members had asthma and needed a place with fresh air. A giant wildfire burning in Sonoma County about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Orinda earlier in the week forced tens of thousands to evacuate and fouled the air over a wide area.

Orinda Police Chief David Cook said at a news conference there is no ongoing threat to the public.

“We don’t have any reason to believe that they stayed in the area,” Cook said of the suspect or suspects. “We don’t have any reason to believe that they were from Orinda.” 

Cook did not address a possible motive or how many people are believed to be involved in the attack.

Another Halloween party, in a rural area east of Salt Lake City , also ended in violence and left two men dead. A 22-year-old man was fatally stabbed and a 23-year-old man was shot to death at the party near the town of Roosevelt where about 20 people were drinking, said Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Tucker. Police had no motive and had made no arrests.

In Chicago, a 7-year-old girl out trick-or-treating in a bumblebee costume was shot in the neck by someone firing from across the street at a gang member. A juvenile identified as a person of interest in the shooting was taken into custody Friday. The girl was in critical but stable condition Friday.

In Orinda on Friday, police tape surrounded the block where the house is located as people came to collect their cars and other belongings. One woman in tears told reporters the father of her child had been killed. She left before giving her name.

Romond Reynolds picked up the car of his son, 24-year-old Armani Reynolds, who he said was left comatose by the shooting.

“All I know is that he’s a victim and was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Reynolds said, adding his son apparently learned about the party on the internet.

Reynolds said he received a call at about 11 p.m. saying someone had driven his son to the hospital. The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said at least four people were wounded but there’s no precise count because some victims went to hospitals in private vehicles rather than ambulances.

Neighbor Shahram Saki, 61, said in a phone interview he heard loud music and laughing from the home before shots rang out. When he opened his door, he saw dozens of terrified people run out of the house — many of them hiding in the bushes in his front yard. Others begged to go into his house for refuge.

“They were screaming for help. I told them, ‘You gotta get out of here,'” Saki said. “I was scared to death, anything could have happened.”

Saki said he signed a petition about a year ago to complain about the home’s renters, who he said often park their vehicles along the street and sometimes block his driveway.

Orinda City Manager Steve Salomon said at a news conference Friday afternoon that the homeowner had resolved previous complaints lodged in February over occupancy and noise and in July over overflowing trash.

City documents show officials issued violations in March for exceeding the home’s maximum occupancy and illegal parking.

Orinda, with a population of about 20,000, requires short-term rental hosts to register with the city annually and pay an occupancy tax. The maximum occupancy is two people per bedroom plus three people not assigned to bedrooms.

Salomon said the property was registered with the city as a short-term rental with a maximum occupancy of 13 people.

Michael Wang, who owns the 4,000-square-foot (372-square-meter), four-bedroom house, said his wife reached out to the renter after neighbors contacted them about the party. The renter said there were only a dozen people at the home. However, Wang said he could see more people on video from his doorbell camera, according to The San Francisco Chronicle .

“We called the police. They were on the way to go there to stop them, but before we got there the neighbor already sent us a message saying there was a shooting,” he told The Chronicle in a phone interview. “When we arrived there, the police were already there.”

Wang did not immediately respond to phone and text messages from AP seeking comment.

Airbnb is “urgently investigating” what happened, spokesman Ben Breit said in an email. Airbnb has banned the renter from its platform and the home has been removed as a listing, he said.

The home’s Airbnb ad included prohibitions on smoking, marijuana use, weapons and parties, Breit added. The listing also said that quiet hours must be observed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. because neighboring homes are close.

The home last sold for $1.2 million in 2017 and rents for about $420 per night.

Orinda Mayor Inga Miller ordered flags flown at half-staff and said the city council will take up the issue of short-term rentals next week at their meeting. 

“This is a tragedy of unimaginable gravity,” she said. 

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