Heartbreak turned a San Diego mechanic into a homicidal maniac who told his ex-girlfriend that he would “go down in a blaze of glory” after she dumped him, a source told The Daily Beast.
Pete Selis entered the pool area of an upscale apartment complex where he lived on Sunday, and shot seven people, killing one before he was shot dead by police. The victims were all black or Hispanic and Selis was white, leading some to speculate it was a hate crime. Police said Monday race had nothing to do with the rampage, but rather he was “despondent” after his girlfriend broke up with him.
“There is zero information to indicate that race played a factor in this crime,” Chief Shelley Zimmerman said Monday.
Hours earlier, the 49-year-old father of three had taken his two daughters out to breakfast, a source close to the family said in an exclusive interview.
“He was acting totally normal,” the source said. “Pete was in a good mood and in the morning was totally fine.”
Some time later, Selis called his ex-girlfriend whom the source knows and got in an argument.
“She told him, ‘You’re an alcoholic and I can’t deal with this anymore,’” the source said.
Selis responded: “Okay, I’m going to go down in a blaze of glory.”
Around 6 p.m. on Sunday, he entered the pool area of the University City apartment complex, with a pistol in one hand and a beer in the other. Nearby there was a birthday party. Selis sat in a poolside chair and was offered food and drink. Shortly after, he opened fire.
“Six or seven minutes later it’s just pow, pow, pow, pow — out of nowhere...There was no indication that he was there to do evil,” Drew Phillips told The San Diego Union Tribune.
“You can either leave or you can stay here and die,” a college student nearby said she heard Selis say.
Multiple attempts to reach Selis’ ex-girlfriend, who The Daily Beast is not naming, were unsuccessful.
The couple posed for photos that were posted on the woman’s social media account during trips they took together, showcasing the dogs that the source says the woman raises.
Selis appeared to be an ordinary father.
“All of the softball moms and dads -- he was one of them… He would take my daughter to softball practice with his daughter,” the source said. “They’re the same age, go to the same school. It’s crazy. I’m having a hard time working today to figure this out.”
Regarding the reports of racial bias, the source said Selis wasn’t a bigot.
“I never knew Pete to be a racist,” the source, who has known Selis for over 10 years. “I never heard him speak a negative word toward minorities in my life. Never.”
Selis had been a supervisor at a car dealership, earning a six-figure salary but “he quit the job and said ‘It was too stressful,’” the source said. Selis’ battles with alcohol and gambling may have contributed to his downward slide.
“He went to several rehabs and late 2015 I know he started to drop back and was drinking and taking [painkillers] again,” the source said.
Court records show that Selis had filed for bankruptcy twice; once back in 2009 for almost $400,000 in liabilities and again in 2015 for almost $110,000. He had racked up excessive debt in both cases and was attempting to consolidate it.
The financial issues affected Selis’ ability to help his ex-wife with child support, which the source said was supposed to be $350 per month but came in infrequent increments of $100.
Selis most recently worked as a mechanic at Mossy Ford, where he met and started dating his co-worker. The position paid half what he used to earn, the source said.
A woman who answered the phone at Mossy Ford quickly hung up when asked about Selis.
Selis married again to a “nice lady” who worked at a juice bar and who had also left him after a year.
According to the source, he remained married so that the woman was able to remain on the late-mechanic’s health insurance policy.
And while the source described Selis as constantly strapped for cash and a “homebody” who wouldn’t go out to drink, but rather drink by himself at his apartment and or exercise alone.
“He worked out a lot,” the source said. “He was always in the gym.”
And when he wasn’t on the clock at the dealership, Selis often fixed cars for friends and family, charging them only for parts.
“He could fix anything, not just Fords,” the source added. “He would say, ‘It’s making this noise and you need to get this done and I can do it.’”
Selis also was chivalrous.
“Pete was the type of guy and if I was running late he would come and help out my dad get out of the car,” the source said, adding that elderly his mother was very active as a volunteer for a local Catholic church. “He would come over and help him with his walker.”
The source also confirmed that Selis possessed a firearm for years.
“I know he had a handgun because when he was married to [his ex-wife] he threatened to kill himself one time with one,” the source said.
In fact, Selis apparently attempted to commit suicide more than once by allegedly “cutting his wrists” and another time hiding under the bed and threatening to kill himself.
If Selis had been discovered dead from suicide, the source could understand. But never could he have foreseen the mechanic and father slay innocent people in such a cold-blooded way.
“To see he went after innocent people that surprised me,” the source said. “That’s not his nature. The Pete I knew wouldn’t do that.”