Page last updated at 05:31 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Toll rises in 'Santa' LA shooting

Covina police chief Kim Raney and Lt Pat Buchanan hold a news conference

At least eight people have died after a man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at a Christmas party near Los Angeles and set the house alight, police say.

Officers fear there may be other people missing in the house in Covina, 25 miles (40km) east of Los Angeles.

Police named Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, as a suspect and said he had later killed himself at his brother's house, some 25 miles (40km) away.

Mr Pardo had recently been divorced and is believed to have lost his job.

Pat Buchanan, a Los Angeles police officer, told the Associated Press news agency: "He was going through some type of marital problems."

Police said Mr Pardo's former wife may have been at the party.

Burnt out

The gunman opened fire on some 25 guests with a hand gun after arriving on Wednesday night, police said.

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo. Police pic
The body of suspect Bruce Jeffrey Pardo has been found

They said he then used a homemade incendiary device to set the house on fire.

Eyewitnesses said he removed the Santa suit and left in casual clothing.

One neighbour, Jan Gregory, told AP she saw a teenage boy running from the house screaming: "They shot my family."

The subsequent fire gutted the two-storey home.

Among those injured was an eight-year-old girl.

LA County coroner's official Ed Winter said the bodies found in the ashes were "extremely charred and burned".

Police said Mr Pardo's body had been found several hours after the shooting, at his brother's house in Sylma. He died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

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