Covina massacre

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Covina massacre
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo.jpg
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo
Location Covina, California, United States
Date December 24, 2008 (2008-12-24)
c. 11:30 p.m. (UTC-8)
Target Ex-wife and her family
Attack type
Mass murder, murder-suicide, torching
Deaths 10 (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
3 (2 from gunfire)
Perpetrator Bruce Jeffrey Pardo

The Covina massacre occurred on December 24, 2008, in Covina, a city in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, United States. Nine people[1] were killed, either by gunshot wounds or in an arson fire inside a house on 1129 East Knollcrest Drive, where a Christmas Eve party was being held.[2] The perpetrator, 45-year-old Bruce Jeffrey Pardo who had entered the house wearing a Santa suit, died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head at his brother's residence in the early hours of the morning after the attack. Authorities cited marital problems as a possible motive for the violence; reports indicated that Pardo's divorce had been finalized on December 18, one week before the massacre.[3] Three people, including Pardo's ex-wife and his former in-laws, were initially declared missing pending identification of their bodies.[4]


Pardo originated from the San Fernando Valley and was a graduate of John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Los Angeles and California State University, Northridge. He worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. He met Sylvia Pardo, previously Sylvia Orza, in 2004.[5]



At approximately 11:30 p.m. PST, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, dressed in a Santa Claus suit, knocked on the door of his former in-laws' house, occupied by about 25 people, with a gift-wrapped package containing a homemade flamethrower in one hand and a 9mm semi-automatic handgun in the other hand; he also had three additional 9mm semi-automatic handguns in his possession. When the door opened, Pardo fired the handgun at the eight-year-old daughter of Leticia Yuzefpolsky, a sister of Sylvia Pardo,[6] as she ran to greet him, injuring her in the face. He then fired indiscriminately at fleeing party-goers. Police speculate that Pardo may have stood over and pointedly executed some of the victims, using the other handguns.[7]

After the shootings, Pardo unwrapped the package containing the homemade flamethrower, and used it to spray racing fuel gasoline to set the home ablaze.[8][9] Nine people died from either gunfire or flames, and three others were wounded: the eight-year-old girl who was shot in the face with severe but non-life-threatening injuries, a 16-year-old girl shot and wounded in the back, and a 20-year-old woman who suffered a broken ankle jumping out of the second-floor window.[9][10] There was one survivor who called the authorities during the attack, after escaping to a neighbor's house.[11] The resulting fire soared approximately 40 to 50 feet and took 80 firefighters an hour-and-a-half to extinguish. Due to the intensity of the fire, identification of the victims was done with dental and medical records.

Suspect's death and aftermath[edit]

After the attack, Pardo put on his street clothes and drove his Dodge Caliber rental car to his brother's house in Sylmar, approximately 30 miles away from the crime scene, where he was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.[7] His brother was not present in the home at the time of Pardo's death.[9] It was initially believed that Pardo intended to flee to Canada by plane as he had bought an airline ticket to a flight on Air Canada;[citation needed] however, it was subsequently discovered that the flight itinerary, on Northwest Airlines, was from Los Angeles to Moline, Illinois (with a layover in Minnesota). Pardo had called days before to tell a high school friend that he was planning to visit, but investigators were unsure if he actually intended to visit or if the flight was to fool investigators.[5] He had visited the friend before, in October 2008. Other reports stated that the Santa suit had melted during the flamethrower portion of the attack and had adhered to his skin, so that not all of it could be removed.

However, suffering from severe third-degree burns on his arms stemming from the blaze, he decided to go against the initial plan.[7][9] Police found $17,000 in cash cling-wrapped on his legs inside a girdle. His rental car, parked one block from his brother's house, had been rigged with remnants of his Santa suit that would detonate the car with black powder if removed. Also recovered from the scene were four 13-round capacity handguns that were empty, and at least 200 rounds of ammunition.[7] Suggesting that what had been inside the car was being treated as a threat, a bomb squad fired an incendiary device into it, burning and destroying it.[10] At Pardo's house in Montrose, police had recovered five empty boxes for semiautomatic handguns, two shotguns, and a container for high-octane fuel tank gasoline. They also found what was described as a "virtual bomb factory" in his home.[9]


At least three victims' deaths were caused by gunshot wounds alone, while four others died from a combination of both gunshot wounds and fire. Two other deaths stemmed from the fire alone.[12] A total of fourteen children lost at least one parent in the massacre.[13] The victims include:

Name Age Relationship Cause of death
Sylvia Ortega Pardo 43 Bruce Jeffrey Pardo's ex-wife Gunshot wound[14]
Alicia Sotomayor Ortega 70 Sylvia Pardo's mother Gunshot wound to the abdomen[15]
Joseph S. Ortega 80 Sylvia Pardo's father Multiple gunshot wounds[15]
Charles Ortega 49 Sylvia Pardo's brother
Cheri Lynn Ortega 45 Charles Ortega's wife
James Ortega 51 Sylvia Pardo's brother
Teresa Ortega 52 James Ortega's wife
Alicia Ortega Ortiz 46 Sylvia Pardo's sister
Michael Andre Ortiz 17 Alicia Ortiz's son Died in the fire[14]


Police speculate that the motive of the attack was related to marital problems. Pardo's wife of one year had settled for divorce in the prior week.[9] However, Pardo held no criminal record and had no history of violence. He had been fired from his job as an electrical engineer at ITT Electronic Systems, Radar Systems in July.[3] There is some speculation that the divorce may have been caused by Pardo concealing a child from a previous relationship. This child was severely injured in a swimming pool accident several years prior.

The couple wed on January 2006, but soon grew apart after their marriage, when Mr. Pardo refused to open a joint account with Mrs. Pardo; he also expected his wife to take care of her own three children with her own finances.[16]

In June 2008, divorce court had ordered Bruce Pardo to pay $1,785 a month in spousal support. During the divorce proceeding, Bruce had confided to a friend his wife was "taking him to the cleaners." In July, Pardo was fired for billing false hours and the court suspended the support payments due to job hardship.[17]

Pardo was required to pay Sylvia $10,000 as part of the divorce settlement, according to court documents. Sylvia kept the wedding ring and the family dog. In a court declaration, Pardo complained that Sylvia was living with her parents, not paying rent, and had spent lavishly on a luxury car, gambling trips to Las Vegas, meals at fine restaurants, massages, and golf lessons.[18]

Popular culture[edit]

Poly Styrene, the lead singer of X-Ray Spex, recorded a song in 2010 called "Black Christmas", which contains references to the massacre.

Boombox Poets recorded a song in 2010 called "Santa Syndrome", which is loosely based on references to the massacre and also to their own lives.

In the 2012 film Silent Night, a character tells the story of a man who donned a Santa suit, and used a homemade flamethrower to attack a Christmas party being attended by his ex-wife.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Frank Girardot's Crime Scene blog
  2. ^ Moore, Solomon; O'Connor, Anahad (2008-12-26). "9th Body Found in California Attack". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  3. ^ a b "Santa gunman was in bitter divorce, lost job". Associated Press. 2008-12-26. 
  4. ^ "6 killed, at least 23 hurt in Christmas weekend shootings". Chicago Tribune. 2008-12-28. 
  5. ^ a b Abdollah, Tami (2009-07-11). "Inside the mind of a killer 'Santa'". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ "Santa" Gunman Planned to Escape to Canada, Police Say, NBC (December 26, 2008)
  7. ^ a b c d Abdollah, Tami; Bloomekatz, Ari B.; Becerra, Hector (2008-12-26). "Covina gunman planned to flee the country, police say". Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^ "Cops: Suspect in Santa massacre had planned to flee". CNN. 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Suspected Santa gunman takes life; 8 others dead". CNN. 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  10. ^ a b "'Santa' Gunman Intended to Flee to Canada, Killed Self After Suffering Burns". FoxNews. 2008-12-26. 
  11. ^ Covina, California (2008-12-28). "Emergency call reveals terror of 'Santa' gunman's rampage". Melbourne: The Age. 
  12. ^ "Coroner: 2 Christmas Eve Massacre Victims Died in Fire, Not Shooting". KTLA. 2008-01-02. 
  13. ^ "After Horrific Santa Suit Massacre, Surviving Family Members Cling To Holiday Traditions". Huffington Post. December 26, 2013. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Coroner IDs last 2 Covina massacre victims"
  15. ^ a b "Coroner IDs 6 killed in massacre: Three still unidentified after attack on Christmas Eve."
  16. ^ [1][dead link]
  17. ^ Covina's 'Santa Claus' gunman
  18. ^ Hoag, Christina (December 26, 2008). "Bruce Jeffrey Pardo: 'Santa' Shooter Planned To Flee To Canada". Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°04′53″N 117°52′02″W / 34.08139°N 117.86722°W / 34.08139; -117.86722