Deputies Storm McDonald’s, Free Hostages
LA VERNE, Calif. (AP) _ Sheriff’s deputies lobbed ″flash-bang″ grenades into a McDonald’s to divert a gunman and stormed the restaurant early today, rescuing the last of 20 people held hostage up to seven hours, authorities said.
None of the hostages was injured, authorities said. The suspect was taken into custody.
The Los Angeles County sheriff’s SWAT team, which never made contact with the gunman, got help from an 18-year-old assistant manager of the restaurant who hid in the kitchen. Ramiro Gironas spied on the gunman, reporting his movements by telephone throughout the standoff, authorities said.
″All I know was to take care of my people, my crew,″ Gironas said. ″I’m glad I’m safe and that all my people are safe. I’m not a hero. I just did what I had to.″
Some hostages, including a 3-year-old girl and an 85-year-old woman, had been forced to lie on the floor under tables at the after-school hangout, authorities said. Several children were among the hostages, La Verne police Lt. Jim Crawford said.
The gunman had fled to the McDonald’s from a holdup at a nearby clothing store and took the hostages about 5:30 p.m. Monday. A second participant in the earlier robbery was arrested outside the McDonald’s as the standoff began, authorities said.
Six hours later, SWAT officers rescued 12 hostages from the restaurant basement, authorities said.
Shortly after midnight, they said, ″flash-bang″ grenades intended to disorient with a burst of light and noise were used to divert the gunman. Then, a deputy seized him and rescued the last eight hostages.
″They were able to get inside without being detected,″ sheriff’s Deputy Bill Wehner said. ″A deputy leaped over the counter and took the suspect into custody.″
Some of the freed hostages and onlookers broke into applause as authorities took the suspect Douglas Girard, to a command post.
The freed hostages were taken to nearby Lutheran High School, where Deputy Dick Dinsmoor said they would get a chance to talk to a psychologist. The children were given teddy bears, he said.
The sheriff’s department revised the number of hostages inside the restaurant several times before finally settling on 20, said sheriff’s Deputy Roger Hom.
Girard, 32, of San Jacinto and his alleged accomplice, Frank M. Teresi, 38, of Anaheim, were booked for investigation of armed robbery and false imprisonment, Hom said. Bail for Girard was set at $500,000; no bail was set for Teresi because he is on parole for robbery and being under the influence of a narcotic.
Girard was treated at Pomona Valley Hospital for slight facial injuries he suffered while being arrested, Hom said.
A .38-caliber revolver was recovered inside the restaurant, said police Sgt. John Ortega.
It was earlier believed two gunmen were inside the restaurant, authorities said.
Negotiators had struggled to reach the gunman by telephone but never made contact to learn whether he had any demands.
The sheriff’s 18-member Special Enforcement Team had been called in to negotiate for the hostages’ release. Dozens of police officers surrounded the restaurant.
La Verne is about 25 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Gironas said he communicated with the 12 people in the basement with a headset used by workers at the drive-up window.
McDonald’s employee Anis Hussain, 25, was among 11 restaurant employees and one customer in the basement. He said the group remained calm.
″It was hot down there, but no one cried and no one got hysterical,″ Hussain said.
Hussain recalled that when the man came into the restaurant, a gun in his back pocket, ″he bought a couple of Big Macs, some french fries and something to drink″ before taking the hostages.