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Gunman Wounded by Off-Duty Deputies

Times Staff Writer

A man armed with a shotgun was wounded several times after he burst into a Saugus restaurant, apparently without realizing that the patrons included a party of armed, off-duty sheriff’s deputies, authorities said Thursday.

The deputies opened fire at Thomas Wilson, 23, of Granada Hills when he entered the Ramp II restaurant Wednesday night and threatened more than 25 patrons with what turned out to be an empty weapon, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Darrell W. Gordon said.

About a dozen shots were fired by the deputies before Wilson collapsed in a parking lot outside the restaurant on Soledad Canyon Road, Gordon said.

In Critical Condition

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Wilson was later reported in critical, but stable condition, at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

Night manager John Nicholas described the restaurant as a “family type” place that has long been favored by off-duty deputies from the nearby Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s substation.

On Wednesday night, Nicholas said, at least six deputies were dining with their wives and members of a local youth group when Wilson confronted them.

What followed “looked like something out of a movie,” Nicholas, 26, said. “I don’t think the guy knew what he was getting into.”

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The manager said the incident began when Wilson and a friend were asked to leave the bar area at about 11 p.m.

“The waitress said they were getting abusive,” Nicholas said. “So I went over and told them we didn’t want any problems. . . . Then (Wilson) stood up and made like he was going to take a swing at me, so I grabbed him and took him to the door.”

‘Diving Under Tables’

Nicholas said he saw Wilson pull a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun out of a truck in the parking lot. “I yelled, ‘He’s got a shotgun!’ And people started diving under tables,” Nicholas recalled.

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When Wilson entered, at least three of deputies had drawn their guns, Gordon said.

While most of the patrons lay on the floor or hid at the back of the lounge area, Gordon said, Sgt. John Harley, 51, and Wilson engaged in a brief standoff, as Harley repeatedly ordered Wilson to drop the weapon and surrender. Wilson allegedly pulled on the shotgun’s slide, in what appeared to be an effort to load a cartridge into the chamber.

Harley and Deputy Michael Waldman, 31, fired at Wilson, who ran outside, Gordon said. Reserve Officer Dean Boris, meanwhile, had left through a rear door.

In the parking lot, Gordon said Boris fired at least five shots at Wilson before he dropped the shotgun and collapsed.

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Wilson’s friend was questioned and released, Gordon said. Wilson could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, Gordon added.

Wilson may not have realized that the shotgun he carried into the bar was empty, Gordon said. “Either that, or he was bluffing.”


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