Huntington Beach officers shot and wounded a burglary suspect Tuesday morning as 25 youngsters playing outside a day-care center just 60 yards away looked on, police said.
None of the children were injured in the gunfire, which witnesses said lasted just a few seconds. The suspect, Gregory R. Greene, 34, of Hawthorne, was hospitalized in stable condition with gunshot wounds in an arm and leg.
Two day-care workers quickly shepherded the children inside the Creative Nursery Center, at the intersection of Heil Avenue and Graham Street, when the gunfire erupted about 9:30 a.m.
A day-care worker who declined to be identified said the children were momentarily frightened when they were hustled into the building but generally took the incident in stride.
“The children were scared because we were scared,” she said “I think we frightened them more than anything.”
Police officers declined to say whether the suspect had a gun or whether he threatened them. They also would not say how many shots were fired or how many officers fired their guns, although two have been placed on administrative leave.
Greene was taken to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center where he was reported in stable condition Tuesday night. A second suspect, William G. McCloud, 26, of Whittier, allegedly the driver of a truck in which the two were riding, was arrested on suspicion of burglary and taken to Huntington Beach Jail where he was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Police said that Greene would also be arrested on suspicion of burglary when he leaves the hospital.
Huntington Beach Police Lt. Bill Mamelli said that Greene started to break into a home on Jib Circle, one block west of Bolsa Chica Road near Heil Avenue, when an occupant heard a window shatter and called police.
Greene fled to a waiting beige Toyota pickup truck driven by McCloud and the two drove east on Heil Avenue, where police spotted them, Mamelli said.
Police stopped them just east of Graham Street and “while attempting to arrest the suspects, officers shot one of the suspects in the arm and leg,” Mamelli said.
At the day-care center, children were playing on swings and a Jungle Gym in the yard, according to the center worker.
She said the flashing lights drew the children’s attention and they watched as police began searching McCloud. She said that Greene got out of the truck with his hands on his head, then appeared to reach behind his back.
“He (the passenger) turned and reached behind him,” she said. “From where I was, I could have sworn that’s what he was doing.”
“Then we heard a bunch of pops. That’s when we got all the children” inside, she explained.
She said she heard five shots as she and a co-worker grabbed the children, ages 2 to 5, and hustled them into the center. A resident in a house along Heil Avenue, who also declined to be identified, also said that she heard five shots.
“At first, I thought it was gunfire,” she said. “I looked out my window after the shots stopped and I saw the guy (Greene) lying on the ground.”
The day-care worker said that the children eventually seemed to take the shooting in stride. “They probably thought they were watching a TV show. We told them police got the bad guy,” she said. “I don’t think any of them are terribly upset by it.”
But, she added, one girl who left at lunchtime told her mother that “a policeman shot at her,” though none of the bullets came near the yard.
Mamelli said the two officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave for 3 days with pay, as is department policy.
Mamelli said that Huntington Beach police officers involved in shootings are routinely given “a few days off.”
He declined to give the officers’ names. The Orange County district attorney’s office is investigating the incident, also a routine procedure.