Bystanders huddled in a room next to the LAPD West Traffic Division front desk as gunfire popped off last night and a round pierced two walls, sending debris raining over their trembling heads, witnesses said.
John Jake was presiding over the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council when he heard about four rounds go off and then another six or so shots that he presumed to be return fire, he told us.
"I told everyone to drop to the ground and be quiet," he said. Jake, the group's president, described what happened:
We were having a wonderful meeting. Two of the gentlemen were about to leave the meeting and walk out that door. I said, 'We overlooked you. Let's give you your two minutes to speak.' Then we heard four gunshots.
The meeting room is next to the desk where a gunman opened fire, striking an officer multiple times before the cop shot back during the 8 p.m. attack, police said. People in the room hit the floor.
Jake says the wall next to one of the doors has "little windows so you can peek into the room:"
We were trying to tell people to shut up because we did not want them to come here. You heard a guy on the phone calling the police when we were already there. You heard girls sniffling. That person [the shooter] had to walk past that room. If he would have come in there it could have been like Columbine. Ten seconds later we heard like another six shots. I saw a couple flashes by the door. Then a bullet came through the wall and some of the debris dropped on top of us. Some people were panicking.
The shootout lasted less than a minute, he said. The officer who was hit was said to be in stable condition. A suspect, identified as 29-year-old Daniel Christopher Yealu, was hospitalized in critical condition. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and booked in lieu of $2 million bail, according to authorities.
About 20 to 25 people were attending the meeting, witnesses said. Neighborhood council member - and journalist - Ky Ho described her experience:
We were in the meeting discussing mundane neighborhood council stuff and all of a sudden you just hear pow-pow-pow really loud - gunshots. And we all dove under the tables. One of the bullets went through the wall, and dry wall or plaster splattered us. I was scared. I thought it was going to be one of those mass shootings that you hear about in the news.
Ky said that after it was all over she went to the restroom and saw a suspect being wheeled out on a gurney. He was nude, she said, because his clothing had been cut off him by paramedics treating his wounds.
"He had blood all over him," she said.
Jake said people in the meeting room were taken to an upper floor area to be interviewed by detectives. Ky said some at the meeting were not allowed to go to their cars because a vehicle connected to a suspect was being checked out by a bomb squad in the adjacent police parking lot used by neighborhood council members.
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She planned to pick up her car today.
Jake praised officers for preventing the situation from being worse.
"I thought the police department did a great job," he said. "They really took care of business."