SAN DIEGO -- Despondent over the end of a relationship, a gunman entered the pool area of his San Diego apartment complex Sunday and began shooting indiscriminately at people gathered for a birthday party, authorities said.
At some point during the shooting 49-year-old Peter Selis took a seat in a lounge chair, pulled out his cell phone and called his ex-girlfriend to tell her he shot two people, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said in a news conference Tuesday.
He kept her on the phone as he continued shooting, killing one woman and injuring six more before police shot and killed him, Zimmerman said.
Though Selis was white and the victims were black and Hispanic, Zimmerman said there was "zero information" to suggest the rampage was racially motivated. Another person was injured in the incident, breaking his arm while fleeing the gunfire.
"The victims were targeted for no reason other than their mere presence," Zimmerman said.
"What started as a celebration of a friend's birthday turned into a tragedy of epic proportions for all those in attendance."
Shooter described as 'docile'
The Sunday night shooting at the La Jolla Crossroads apartments left the suspect and one victim dead -- and a community in mourning.
One person who saw the carnage unfold said he could only describe it as "terror."
"He was very docile. In his facial expression, no smiling, laughing, talking," Demetrius Griffin, a Seattle-area man who attended the party, told CNN. "He let off eight rounds, reloaded, let off another eight, reloaded again,"
Another witness told CNN affiliate KGTV, that the shooter looked "relaxed" and was sitting "with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other."
But Griffin said there was "no beer involved." He confirmed that nobody in the party knew the shooter, who was sitting in close proximity to an exit. He said everybody shot was attending the party.
Griffin said the shooter looked over at the party several times before he opened fire. As people began scrambling and screaming "he didn't say a single word," Griffin said.
Suspect killed at scene
The first 911 call came in at 6:08 p.m. to report two people had been shot, Zimmerman said. The second caller described hearing five to six gunshots and seeing someone outside with a gun.
As police responded to 911 calls, officers in a helicopter above the complex directed ground units to the suspect in the pool area, she said.
Three officers raced to the scene confronted the shooter, she said. He pointed his weapon at them, prompting an exchange of gunfire that killed Selis at the scene.
"This was a truly horrific and disturbing act. We pray for the victims and thank our first responders. Our city rejects this senseless violence," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a news conference.
Shots ring out in placid neighborhood
The upscale complex is located near the University of California San Diego campus in a normally a tranquil location that college students, physicians and military families, among others, call home.
UCSD student Enzo Zhuang's apartment overlooks the pool. He was playing video games when he heard arguing and minutes later, noises that sounded like fireworks.
"I thought to myself, who would be lighting fireworks?" Zhuang said,"it was always peaceful here before this happened."
Gabrielle Sulli, who lives at the apartment complex, told KGTV she heard people screaming.
"We literally saw people jumping out from the fences and running away like crazy."
In a span of about 30 minutes, apartment residents heard gunfire, sirens and the screams of those near the main pool, said resident Susan Berry, who was at the property but did not witness the shooting.
"People are shocked because it's an affluent neighborhood," Berry said.
Selis, who faced significant debts, filed for bankruptcy in 2015. He listed his occupation as a car mechanic, according to a petition filed in US Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of California.
When asked how he would characterize what happened, Griffin didn't want to label it. He said he wasn't saying it was an "act of terrorism."
"But it's terror," he said.
"What's important now is making sure that everybody is OK, Griffin said, "that young lady who unfortunately passed away, that her family is comforted."
On Monday morning, the grief and terror persisted when Griffin woke up. He started crying.
"I thought I was still in the pool area," he said. "I rolled out of my bed and hit the ground."