Manhunt under way for L.A. gunman; boy in critical condition
August 10, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A gunman stormed into the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills shortly before 11 a.m. PT Tuesday and began firing randomly, wounding three young children, a teen-ager and an adult, authorities said.
A 5-year-old boy is in extremely critical condition, doctors said. The others are in stable condition.
Heavily armed police from several agencies fanned out in the area using helicopters and tracking dogs in search of the gunman, said to be armed with a high-powered weapon.
President Clinton spoke briefly on the incident at the White House Tuesday afternoon. "Once again our nation has been shaken and our hearts torn by an act of gun violence," Clinton said.
He said the families of the victims were in the hearts and prayers of Americans, and said the federal government was assisting in the manhunt.
The search area is roughly one square mile and heavily residential. Authorities told neighborhood residents to stay inside their homes with the doors locked, as police conduct door-to-door and car-to-car searches for the suspect.
The gunman is still at large. Officer Carol Evans, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department, said he was seen fleeing the scene on foot.
Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks described the suspect as a bald white man, about 40, 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, wearing green clothing.
The suspect is believed to be armed with a high-powered weapon with a large magazine, Parks said.
Capt. Steven Ruda of the Los Angeles Fire Department said the gunman entered the community center, "sprayed the lobby and then walked down the short hallway ... He sprayed as he walked down the hallway, out of the building and then to the west."
Ruda said all the victims were shot in the lobby of the community center, where authorities found 20-30 shell casings that appeared to be 9 millimeter from a semi-automatic weapon.
Police said they know of no motive for the attack.
Bomb squads also checked a van parked three miles from the community center for explosives, military ordnance and booby traps.
A source tells CNN that police are looking into a possible connection between a carjacking, the van, and the Jewish Center shooting. The source says that around the time of the shooting, a man carjacked an automobile, leaving behind a van that is now being searched near Van Nuys airport.
The source stresses it is not yet known whether the car-jacking incident or the van is in any way connected to the Jewish Center shooting.
Officers from all over the Los Angeles area have converged on the neighborhood, including SWAT team members, canine units and members of the anti-terrorism units.
The FBI also dispatched members of its civil rights squad to the location to look into the possibility that the shooting might have been a hate crime.
"There is a male on the loose who is very dangerous," said Los Angeles Police Sgt. John Pasquarielo.
"At this time, we are saying lone suspect. We do not know if there was more than one suspect at this point," he said.
There is a very tight perimeter around the neighborhood. A parent who broke police lines was taken into custody and handcuffed.
Police said five people were shot, including three young boys.
Live television coverage from the scene 12 miles north-northwest of downtown Los Angeles showed a woman lying on the sidewalk in a pool of blood.
A 5-year-old boy is in critical condition. He was shot in the abdomen and leg and lost a great deal of blood, doctors said.
"He's extremely critical," said Dr. Charles Deng of the Providence-Holy Cross Medical Center. "We don't even know if he's going to survive the next few hours. Minute by minute now he's very critical ... one of the most critical cases we've ever seen here."
A 16-year-old girl, a teacher's aide, is in stable condition, he said, with one bullet wound to her leg.
The one adult wounded, a 68-year-old woman who has worked as a receptionist at the center for 13 years, is in stable condition.
Her daughter, Lucille Goldin, said she rushed to the hospital and her mother was able to sit up and talk with her.
"She said that a young man, I guess in his 40s, walked in and she saw him coming at her, and I guess he just started open firing, and she knew enough to quickly duck down, and she did and crawled into the back office area where some of the other girls were," Goldin said.
Goldin said her mother said the gunman "wasn't anyone she knew or seemed to belong there."
Authorities said a 6-year-old boy is in fair condition at Children's Hospital with two gunshot wounds to the leg and hip. An 8-year-old boy, shot in the foot, is in stable condition.
"This is a sad day for the city of Los Angeles," Mayor Richard Riordan said at a news conference.
Earlier, television news cameras showed four policemen leading a chain of 10 young children -- all holding hands -- from the shooting scene. One of the officers carried another child away from the community center.
All children have been accounted for. They were attending a summer camp at the center.
Jeff Rouss, director of the center, said at least 250 children were at the facility at the time of the shooting, while others -- a busload -- were on a field trip.
"We must do something about guns. We must stop this," Rouss said. "Let's protect our children. Let's let them be children."
The Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement at mid-afternoon expressing outrage at the attack.
"In light of the rash of hate crimes throughout the country, including the synagogue arsons in Sacramento and the shootings in the Midwest, today's shooting at a Jewish community center has understandably led many to conclude this horrific incident was motivated by anti-Semitism."
Concerned parents began arriving at the center within an hour after the shooting, but were taken to nearby Temple Beth Torah to be reunited with their children.
Some worried parents had to wait for police and fire department personnel to call their names and allow them to retrieve their children.
"I just want to see my son," said David Berlin. "I know he's OK, but I still want to see him myself. He's only two and a half, so I don't know if he quite understands."
Some of the older children who were usually at the center were away on a field trip when the shooting happened.
"How do you explain to a 9-year-old child who loves coming to a camp at an after-school program that ... it's just not safe?" said one mother. "You feel like a target."
The Los Angeles Police Department
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