When the boat captain saw the machine gun, he didn't care about Scott Dekraai's explanation—that he was carrying the weapon because he was having "issues with some guy and his girl." The captain wanted the gun off of his boat, immediately.
Dekraai complied, but 20 years later—now that police say Dekraai gunned down nine people, including his ex-wife, in a revenge rampage at a Seal Beach beauty parlor—the captain found the memory chilling.
One thing he knew for certain. He always found working beside Dekraai unnerving.
The captain, who asked to have his name withheld for business reasons unassociated with Orange County's deadliest mass murder, is one of several former colleagues and family members who recalled disturbing behavior by Dekraai over the years that are alleged to have culminated with last week's shooting spree.
"I would run the boat, and handle all the galley money and such," said the boat captain, who dated the machine gun incident sometime before Dekraai, 41, earned his own captain's license, possibly 1991.
"My other deckhand told me that Scotty Dog (he had a small black dog tattoo on his leg) had a 'machine gun' on the boat," the captain recalled. "Scott was living on the boat, by permission ... as he was having troubles with his girlfriend. Anyway, I called him up to the wheelhouse, and told him that I did not want that on the boat ... and he was good with that.
"He showed it to me. It was a MAC-10 or similar (I don't know guns). I asked him why he needed that weapon, and he said he was having issues with some guy and his girl, and I left it at that. Seemed odd, and drastic, and his demeanor was both calm and icy."
The Southern California boat captain said that although he knew little about guns, it was Dekraai who called it a machine gun.
Echoing the comments in recent days of many boating co-workers and friends, a prominent sportsfisherman added, "we all thought it was the accident that changed him, but it turns out he was messed up 20 years ago."
The boat supervisor recalled that before Dekraai got his captain's license, "he was a hard worker, and good with people. I only worked with him a few times, but it was for several days in a row, when [another captain] would go on vacation."
He said he informed the second captain at that time who, like himself, also ran the boats' relief shifts and the second captain "said he knew about the weapon. He also said—oddly, as we were all friends who worked and ate together, with never an argument—that he would never want to cross Scotty."
Dekraai would have been about 21 at the time, a few years out of Long Beach's Wilson High School, where an Associated Press story reported he played football before he graduated in 1987.
By then he had already shown years of what his own family portrayed as disturbing signs of anger and inappropriate behavior, the story reports. Dekraai's step-uncle, Max Hinmon, said Scott was trying to have sex with girls at age 12 in the family home, where his bedroom door was eventually removed to halt it.
Dekraai "should have had an idyllic Southern California childhood: He spent his formative years just blocks from the beach with his beloved grandparents, fished from the pier with friends and surfed along the wide, sandy beaches of his hometown," the story reads.
"But poor decisions, bad luck and soured relationships shadowed Scott Dekraai over the years as he transformed into an angry adult whose life spiraled ever more out of control ...
"For years, family members and friends watched Dekraai struggle with rage and mental health problems.
"'He was the cutest little kid you'd ever want to see and if you look at his high school pictures, he was a handsome young man,'" said Hinmon. 'But now he's a very emotionless person. He can be very charming and he'll smile at you and you'll think he's the nicest person in the world. But he's got an extreme dark side to him. He'll fly off the handle at any little thing."
Dekraai, 41, showed no emotion Friday at his first court appearance hours after the Orange County District Attorney said he would seek the death penalty. Pleas were postponed on eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the rampage at Salon Meritage. It was owned by one of the victims, Randy Lee Fannin, 62, of Murrieta.
Dekraai was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from an accident in which he vainly tried to save a coworker in a gruesome work incident that left her split in two and nearly severed his legs; and with bipolar disorder, for which he took antipsychotic medication. His attorney told the court Friday he'd not taken the medication. The family law attorney requested his client be given his medication and sought a postponement to assemble a defense team. Victims' family members shouted in court at Dekraai, who smiled for his booking photo at the Orange County Jail.
—Patch fishing columnist Philip Friedman contributed to this report.