Trader Joe’s worker uses ladder to help colleagues escape during Los Angeles hostage situation
A worker’s quick-thinking helped several of his colleagues escape a California Trader Joe’s on Saturday during an hourslong standoff at the grocery store after a man held dozens of people hostage and killed a woman.
Sean Gerace told NBC Los Angeles he was working in the backroom of the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles when he hear people screaming and gunshots just after 3 p.m. He and his colleagues ran to an upstairs storage area for safety.
Sean Gerace helped several employees escape the hourslong standoff by finding a ladder to climb down the second floor of the grocery store building. (KCBS via NNS)
“I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window, and just tried to get the attention of a SWAT officer,” Gerace recalled.
Gerace was seen on video signaling to police officers at the scene before he and other employees climbed down the ladder. He helped other workers out of the building before running to safety.
The terrifying ordeal for the workers and customers at the grocery store began when an unidentified man ran inside after crashing his vehicle into a pole. He barricaded himself inside and held dozens of employees and customers hostage.
Sean Gerace seen on video climbing down the ladder to help others get to safety. (KCBS via NNS)
Gunfire erupted between the suspect in the store and police officers outside.
“It was a matter of split seconds between the time he got out, the boom-boom-boom and him running into the store,” Dan Zito, who was outside of the store when the incident occurred, told the Los Angeles Times.
At least one person was killed when the gunman ran into the store, barricaded himself and held dozens hostage. (AP)
About two hours before, the suspect shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman, who he forced into a car.
Lynne Westafer, a Trader Joe’s employee, toldKCALshe didn’t know the alleged gunman had shot his grandmother several times before the hostage situation.
“He said he would start killing us if he didn’t get to talk to his granny,” Westafer recalled. “And he would start counting down from five — and that was terrifying.”
The hostage situation ended when the gunman agreed to walk out of the store. (AP)
“I’m mostly angry, I’m still furious. There were moments of total terror. He loved the power and he was going to milk the situation,” she said about the terrifying situation.
The standoff continued until about 6:30 p.m. when the man agreed to handcuff himself and walked out the front door, surrounded by four of the hostages. The unidentified man, who police said is about 28, was immediately taken into custody. Police said he had a wound to his arm.
“The heroism that was shown today was second to none and the teams that were able to respond, secure the perimeter and engage in conversation with the suspect no doubt saved lives today,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been traumatized.
A woman, identified by her family and local media as Melyda Corado, was killed during the shootout and standoff. Corado, who was a recently promoted store manager, was pulled out of the store by employees and pronounced dead at the scene.
“They were just so devastated,” Westafer said about the staff who found out about Corado’s death. “Everyone loved her. They’re destroyed. She was in her late 20s. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t even tell you how upset they are.”
The grandmother who was shot seven times was in critical condition while the other woman suffered a grazing wound.
Fire officials said six people, ranging in age from 12 to 81, were taken to the hospital. None had been shot and all were in fair condition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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