November 14, 2015 / 6:54 PM / 4 years ago

College student from California studying abroad killed in Paris attacks

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Reuters) - A California university student who was studying design in France was killed in an attack on a restaurant in Paris, making her the first American confirmed dead in the assault at several sites in the French capital, school officials said on Saturday.

Students, friends and members of the media, gather while listening to a media briefing by University president in memory of 23-year-old Cal State University Long Beach (CA) student Nohemi Gonzalez who died in Paris terror attacks, at her school's campus in Long Beach, California November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr.

Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, was a junior at California State University, Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, and was studying for a semester at the Strate College of Design in a suburb of Paris, said CSULB spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp.

On Friday night, several sites around Paris were targeted in a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers in what the Paris public prosecutor said killed at least 129 people and wounded more than 350, of whom nearly 100 remain in critical condition. Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Gonzalez, who was from El Monte, California, was with a group of students at a restaurant when she was shot during the attack, said university spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh.

Another California student also was shot and wounded, but was able to flee the restaurant, Carbaugh said. The woman later watched as Gonzalez was carried out on a stretcher, she said.

California State University, Long Beach, will hold a vigil on Sunday to mourn Gonzalez as well as the deaths of others in the attacks.

“Nohemi was something of a star in our department,” said Michael LaForte, who oversees the department of design at the CSULB. “She was a mentor to other students and she will be extraordinarily, profoundly missed.”

On Oct. 20, in a post on Facebook, Gonzalez talked about studying in French. “Learning a 3D modeling computer program in a language I don’t know is up there in the top 3 hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department would only confirm that one American citizen had been killed, but did not release a name out of respect for privacy of the family. “We continue to reach out to other Americans affected by these attacks, including several Americans who were injured,” the spokesperson said.

California State University, Long Beach, officials said they could not say at which restaurant Gonzalez was killed. But Washington Post national security reporter Adam Goldman in a post on Twitter said it was at Le Petit Cambodge. More than a dozen people died at the eatery.

Gonzalez’s friend, her classmate Niran Jayasiri, wrote on Facebook: “You were one of the most down-to-earth, cheerful, bubbly, helpful and honest people I knew.”

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Ben Klayman in Detroit and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Diane Craft

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