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Dining Deputies Wound Man Reported to Have Brandished Gun in Restaurant

Times Staff Writer

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

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Darrell W. Gordon said deputies began shooting at Thomas Wilson, 23, of Granada Hills when he threatened more than 25 patrons with what turned out to be an empty weapon.

About 13 shots were fired by the deputies before Wilson collapsed in a parking lot outside the Ramp II restaurant on Soledad Canyon Road, Gordon said.

Police said Wilson was in critical but stable condition at the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where he was taken after the shooting. A spokesman for the hospital would say only that Wilson was alive.

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A Favorite of Deputies

John Nicholas, the night manager at the restaurant, described the Ramp II as a “family-type” restaurant that has long been a favorite of off-duty deputies from the nearby Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s substation. On Wednesday night, he said, at least six of these deputies were eating in the restaurant with their wives and members of a local youth group when Wilson entered with a shotgun.

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

Nicholas said the episode started when Wilson and a friend were asked to leave the restaurant’s bar at about 11 p.m. Wednesday.

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“The waitress said they were getting abusive,” said Nicholas. “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.”

Pulled Out Shotgun

Nicholas said he and the restaurant’s bartender followed Wilson and his friend into the parking lot, where he saw Wilson pull a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun out of a nearby truck. Both men ran back into the restaurant as Wilson walked towards the door, Nicholas said.

“I yelled ‘He’s got a shotgun!’ and people started diving under tables.’ ” said Nicholas.

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When Wilson entered the restaurant, at least three of the off-duty deputies had drawn their guns, Gordon said. They were Sgt. John Harley, 51, a 24-year Sheriff’s Department veteran, Deputy Michael Waldman, 31, a nine-year veteran, and reserve officer Dean Boris, Gordon said.

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

Ran Out of Restaurant

Harley and Waldman began firing at Wilson, who ran out of the restaurant, Gordon said. Boris, meanwhile, had left the restaurant through a back door.

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

Gordon said police believe that Wilson and his companion had been drinking at several local bars before they arrived at the Ramp II restaurant.

Wilson’s companion, Randall Hampsted, 25, of Reseda, was arrested and booked on suspicion of public disorderliness and was later released, Gordon said. Wilson could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, he added. Gordon also said Wilson may not have realized that the shotgun he carried into the bar was empty.

“Either that, or he was bluffing,” he said.

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