It wasn't clear whether Vega walked away during or just before an official break for contestants, most of whom were away from the contest site when Vega killed himself.
Witnesses said Vega went directly to a Kmart across the street, threw a trash can through a window and quickly went into the store.
"It was the most surreal thing I've ever seen in my life," said Dru Laborde, a program director for KYKX radio and a media participant in the contest.
Police said they were called at 5:59 a.m. When they arrived, they saw Vega walking from the back of the store toward the doors. He had a shotgun in his hands, police said, and shot himself. A police spokesman said police exchanged a few words with Vega before he stepped back and shot himself. He said he wasn't sure what had been said
In other news, Nabokov's Lolita turns 50 today : http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/opinion/15schiff.html