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1 dead, 1 held in gun battle at Trader Joe’s in California

A gunman suspected of shooting two people at a South L.A. home before opening fire outside a Trader Joe's in Silver Lake is in custody after a tense standoff on July 21, 2018. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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The man who sparked a fierce gun battle with police outside a Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake near downtown Los Angeles surrendered early Saturday evening after a violent afternoon that left one woman dead and at least two wounded.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the death during a televised news conference, saying the woman was pulled out of the store by authorities and declared dead at the scene. Garcetti released no other details, saying police were trying to reach the woman’s next of kin.

The woman was a Trader Joe’s employee, according to a law enforcement source.

The ordeal began as family dispute in South Los Angeles involving the still unidentified man, 28, who shot his grandmother at least seven times and injured another woman, police said.

The gunman dragged the second woman into his grandmother’s Toyota Camry and fled.

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Police found the car in Hollywood using transmissions from its anti-theft device, and a chase ensued. The gunman blew out his own rear window while firing at police, officials said. The pursuit ended with the Camry crashing into a light post outside the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake.

The gunman exchanged fire with police and was struck in his left arm before running inside the store, police said.

The young woman who died was apparently hit by gunfire during the exchange between police and the suspect outside the store.

Between 40 and 50 others were trapped inside, and a three-hour hostage negotiation ensued. During that time, the suspect allowed some to leave while others sneaked out. Some crawled out of windows.

During the standoff, the Los Angeles Fire Department sent 18 ambulances and 100 firefighters at the scene, expecting the worst.

A family reunification center was established at the Northeast LAPD station.

The grandmother was in critical condition after undergoing surgery, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore. The second woman injured by the gunman suffered a relatively minor head wound and was in good condition, he said.

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Several shoppers on social media described a terrifying scene of gunfire, people running for cover and hiding as the gunman ran into the store. One shopper said she was outside when the pursuit ended. She sought cover behind a wall as the man opened fire and police shot back.

Don Kohles was outside the store when he saw the end of the pursuit.

Immediately, he heard two shots and ducked into the exit door. He looked back at the street and saw two police officers shooting at the man.

“The bullets were flying everywhere through the front of the store and across the parking lot,” he said.

The gunfire shattered the glass doors, he said, and the gunman ran into the store and “down the middle aisle.”

A woman at the Gelson’s supermarket across the street said gunfire was heard from that store and that everyone dove to the floor. She said employees eventually let shoppers out.

Elias Cueva, who works at Gelson’s, was outside on his lunch break and saw the police chase.

“The tire exploded. When he couldn’t move the car, the police shot at him. I dove onto the floor,” he said.

Inside the Gelson’s, employees thought the shooter was outside.

“Right when we heard the gunshots, we went down. We thought the shooter was in our parking lot shooting at us,” Avo Kegeyan said.

As the standoff wore on, about 30 people gathered at police lines on Monon Street. There was hushed conversation and sharing of details mainly gleaned from news reports. Some gathered were residents of homes beyond the barricades prohibited from returning until the situation was resolved.

Retiree Robert Novak, who lives three doors from the Trader Joe’s, said he hoped no one had been shot.

“It’s always the busiest store in the neighborhood — especially on the weekends,” he said.

Many said they visited the store so often that they had become friends with the employees.

“We know all the people who work there. We’ve had them over. We’ve hung out with them,” said Anna Williams, who lives on Monon.

“It’s the equivalent of your local bodega in New York,” said Jessica Passoff, who lives on Rowena. “You stop there for everything.”

The situation paralyzed the trendy, normally humming, commercial district in Silver Lake. Restaurants, bars and shops along Hyperion Avenue went dark — either ordered on lockdown by police or shuttered by worried employees.

On some side streets near Trader Joe’s, people who tried to leave their apartments were greeted with police bullhorns.

“Return to your home! Get off the sidewalk,” officers said.

Suzy Gonzalez of Echo Park was preparing to turn into Trader Joe’s parking lot for her weekly shop when officers waved her off.

She saw the crashed car and thought there had been a minor accident, but then noticed a line of 25 police vehicles streaming into the area.

“It almost looked like a funeral procession,” she said.

Police had closed off a large swath of Silver Lake around Hyperion and Griffith Park Boulevard.

Officials urged the public to avoid the area. The investigation was likely to continue well into Sunday morning, Garcetti said.

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© 2018 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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