The diminutive husband of convicted Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova grappled with a gunman who fired at police near Los Angeles International Airport and held him for officers, authorities said Thursday.
Nikolai Ogorodnikov, who along with his wife was convicted in the FBI espionage case involving then-Agent Richard W. Miller, was credited with capturing Everett Dewey Lane, 28, Wednesday evening in the parking lot of the Hampton Hotel, when Lane purportedly tried to seize the hotel van Ogorodnikov drives.
"He saved the van and he saved all kinds of innocent people who may have gotten hurt," hotel manager Jeff Teetz said.
Lane was arrested and booked on suspicion of attempted murder of a police officer and robbery.
Police said officers were responding to a call at Fox Limousine, near the hotel, when they saw a man running and called for him to halt. Instead of stopping, police said, the man pulled a pistol from his waistband and fired, missing Officer Robert Phan, 26.
Phan returned fire, but also missed, police said, and the man ran to the Hampton Hotel, at 10300 S. La Cienega Blvd. He confronted Ogorodnikov, who was alone while preparing to drive hotel guests to the airport.
"He put his hand in and grabbed the keys, and I shouted, 'Get out of here,' " the 59-year-old Ogorodnikov, a muscular, 5 feet, 4 inches tall, said Thursday. "And I grabbed him. I'm not going to let him have my van.
"He hit me three, four, five times in the face."
Ogorodnikov said he fell to the ground, but then grabbed the man's legs, swung him inside the van and held his head between the seats until police arrived.
"Then, I learned that this guy was the guy who shot at police, " he said. "This is a very dangerous guy. Who knows what he did to other people?"
Ogorodnikov, a West Hollywood resident, said he acted on instinct.
"I didn't think about it," he said. "I think I do it for society. This guy could have hurt other people."
Ogorodnikov got out of federal prison in February after serving five years of an eight-year sentence. He and his wife pleaded guilty in June, 1985, to conspiracy to commit espionage in connection with the spy case.
Svetlana Ogorodnikova, 40, is in a federal prison in Pleasanton, serving an 18-year sentence.
Miller, 54, the first FBI agent convicted of espionage, was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for passing documents to Svetlana in exchange for sex and a promised $65,000 in gold and cash.
Ogorodnikov insisted Thursday that both he and his wife are innocent, despite their guilty pleas, entered when the couple realized that Svetlana could receive a life sentence if jurors found her guilty.
"Psychologically, I'm still in prison," said Ogorodnikov, who is on parole. "I'm not free. But, now I'm in better condition. I work. I make a little money. I'm doing OK. I'm not an aggressor against people."
Ogorodnikov's photograph as the Hampton's employee of the month for November was still on display in the lobby.
"I guess he'll be up for it again," hotel manager Teetz said.