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Counseling Offered At Santa Monica Park After Wave Of Shootings

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SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — People who were affected by last Friday’s deadly shooting spree in Santa Monica are being offered free therapy sessions at a newly-opened counseling center in the city.

The counseling center at Virginia Avenue Park, located at 2200 Virginia Avenue, will be opened 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays until the end of the month.

City of Santa Monica employee Julie Taren said community members shaken by the June 7 tragedy and two subsequent unrelated shootings in the area are welcome to see available therapists.

“We’re looking at it as a hub for the community to have a place to talk,” Taren told KCAL9.

Volunteer therapist Marguerite Stouthamer said those seeking help can come to the park multiple times.

“People can drop in for any amount of time that they want,” Stouthamer said.

Counseling is offered in English and Spanish.

People who need long-term help will be able to get a referral.

Santa Monica police have identified 23-year-old John Zawahri as the man suspected of killing five people and wounding three others during the June 7 rampage that began at his father’s Yorkshire Avenue home and ended at Santa Monica College, where he was fatally shot by responding officers.

Two unrelated shootings in the Pico neighbourhood near Virginia Avenue Park followed.

On Sunday, a 32-year-old bicyclist was hospitalized after being shot along the 2900 block of Exposition Boulevard.

On Tuesday, two men were shot in an alley in the 1500 block of Michigan Avenue. One of the victims, 29-year-old Gil Verastegui, died. The other man, whose name has not been released, remains in hospital.

Police on Wednesday were looking for 24-year-old Levy Ernesto Rodriguez in connection to the earlier incident on Exposition.

On Thursday three other men were charged in the shooting on Michigan Avenue.

Christopher Chonan Osumi, 19, Meliton Lorenzo Lopez, 23, were charged with murder and attempted murder with gang allegations.

A third man, 32-year-old Noah Jason Farris, was charged with being an accessory.

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