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'Bullets were flying everywhere' as gunman opened fire at Trader Joe's. Witnesses describe the terror

'Bullets were flying everywhere' as gunman opened fire at Trader Joe's. Witnesses describe the terror
A gunman suspected of shooting two people at a South L.A. home before opening fire outside a Trader Joe's in Silver Lake was taken into custody after a tense standoff. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Don Kohles was outside the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake on Saturday afternoon when a car crashed into a pole on Hyperion Avenue.

Immediately, he heard two shots. He ducked into the exit door of the Trader Joe’s. He looked back at the street and saw two police officers shooting at a man.

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

The gunfire shattered the glass doors, Kohles said, and the gunman ran inside and “down the middle aisle.”

Kohles was horrified by the violence at corner of Hyperion Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard, the commercial center of Silver Lake.

(Ellis Simani / @latimesgraphics)

The gunman was taken into custody and officials announced one woman had been killed during the incident.

Several shoppers on social media described a terrifying scene of gunfire, people running for cover and hiding as the gunman ran inside. One shopper said she was outside when the pursuit ended and sought cover behind a wall as the suspect and officers exchanged shots.

Dan Zito of Eagle Rock was pushing his shopping cart out of Trader Joe’s when he heard the scream of sirens.

He said he looked up in time to see a sedan pursued by patrol cars attempt to turn into the store parking lot.

“He was on three tires so he couldn’t make the turn and he crashed into the pole,” Zito said.

The vehicle stopped 10 feet from Zito, he said, and the driver immediately sprang from the car and began firing at the police cars.

“It was a matter of split seconds between the time he got out, the boom-boom-boom and him running into the store,” he said.

Makela Wilson said she was shopping around 3:10 pm when she saw the gunman’s car slam into the pole.

It happened in a blur, she said: Three to four shots erupted before he ran into the store. Police swarmed the area in tactical gear with guns drawn. She said an officer instructed her and another woman parked next to her to duck in their vehicles, where they remained for at least 30 minutes.

She was briefly interviewed by police and released. Her car is still sitting in the parking lot, brunch ingredients likely spoiling in the afternoon heat.

“I was going to make French toast,” she said.

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About 30 people gathered at police lines on Monon Street. There was hushed conversation and sharing of details mainly gleaned from news reports. Some were residents of homes beyond the barricades, who were 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 hostage situation paralyzed a 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, 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.

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