Sniper Fires at MCA High-Rise, Injures 7 : Violence: Police identify the gunman as a former employee of the company. Two secretaries on the 14th floor are struck by rounds.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A dispirited man with a high-powered rifle casually took up a position across the street from MCA World Headquarters in Universal City on Tuesday morning and alternately pumped bullets into the 15-story "Black Tower" and swigged from a bottle of liquor for about five minutes before surrendering to police.

Seven employees were wounded in the 35- to 40-bullet barrage, two shot and five others cut by flying glass.

Hundreds more, realizing only gradually that the strange whip-cracking sound was a muzzle report, crouched in terror for up to half an hour, not knowing whether the shots were coming from within the building or outside. The two most seriously injured, secretaries on the 14th floor, were in good condition after receiving treatment for bullet wounds to the upper arm.

Police identified the gunman as former MCA employee John Brian Jarvis, 58, of Pleasanton, who was dejected over his inability to find work.

"He was terminated from the company in 1986 and over a period of years he feels he has been unable to get a job," Lt. Daniel Lang said. "So he has acquired a frustration level and channeled all of his anger to MCA."

Jarvis' landlord in Pleasanton said the alleged gunman had hardly worked since leaving MCA, and his mother had died in March, leaving him alone, broke and distraught.

Lang said Jarvis told detectives that he also fired at the next-door Bank of America because he owed an undisclosed amount of money to the bank.

"He owed outstanding debts," Lang said. "So he fired rounds at Bank of America too."

So placid was the gunman's demeanor Tuesday, and so unremarkable the sound of the rifle shots, that people on the sidewalk took little notice through most of the volley.

Dozens of witnesses watched in almost curious disbelief minutes before 10 a.m. as the gunman parked a brown and white station wagon in an alley about 200 yards from the building, placed his bottle on the cab and opened fire with the Remington bolt-action hunting rifle in a staccato rhythm, stopping briefly to load a new magazine.

When a solitary police black-and-white drove up behind him and ordered him to surrender, the gunman put the weapon down, took one more drink and calmly gave himself up.

"It was like he was out shooting ducks on a summer's day with a bottle of bourbon," said Tom Rowland, an MCA employee who watched the shooting from the balcony of an adjacent building.

The bullets shattered at least 20 windows on most of the top seven floors.

"People just walked by as if to say: 'Oh, some guy is shooting. It's L.A.,' " Rowland said.

Tony Labate, a Universal Studios editor who watched the commotion from across the street as he walked to the Bank of America next to the MCA tower, said cars and pedestrians continued right in front of the shooter.

"Suddenly somebody screamed: 'Run for cover!' " he said. "It was funny because everyone was running in different directions because they didn't know where it was coming from."

Diane Delano, a Universal Studios stunt woman and nearby resident, said that at one point she saw the gunman look a pedestrian right in the eye.

"He stopped and acknowledged him and then started shooting again," Delano said.

"He was perfectly calm," said Lorna Scott, another resident. "That's why we didn't think he was shooting real bullets. He looked over at me and smiled and then started shooting again."

Inside the tower, about 40 employees on the 10th floor felt no alarm even as the bullets crashed through the windows below them.

Feature casting director Valerie McCaffrey had just left her Tuesday morning creative meeting two buildings to the south and walked to the tower to see her boss on the 10th floor.

She was talking on the telephone when she began to hear an unusual sound.

"It sounded like the crack of a whip," McCaffrey said. "It didn't sound like a gunshot. I thought, it must be some construction downstairs. It kept happening. It was really intense."

Finally, a bullet pierced the window near her, leaving a baseball-sized hole.

"People screamed. The gunshot was so loud we thought the guy was on the floor," she said.

Three more bullets came through, one hitting a filing cabinet on the wall opposite the window.

"It was unbelievable," McCaffrey said. "I thought our lives were over. Somebody said: 'Go to the center of the room.' We crawled on our knees. We shut all the doors of all the offices."

They all huddled, afraid to move, for 15 minutes before someone came to say the shooter had been captured. A woman on the floor was hit by a piece of glass, McCaffrey said.

Four floors above, two women were hit by bullets in quick succession.

Executive secretary Dixie Tung, 41, of North Hollywood heard another secretary, Nettie Marie Gilreath, say shots had been fired.

"Ironically, she walked toward the window," Tung said. "I went to get her. The next thing I knew, immediately she was on the floor." Gilreath was hit by flying glass. Tung was shot twice in the arm.

The only other shooting victim was Anna Kim, 25, of Hacienda Heights, who had a flesh wound in her upper right arm. Four other women were hit by flying glass.

Tung and Kim were taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Tung was reported in good condition after surgery Tuesday afternoon. Kim was treated and released.

Gilreath, 58, Emmy Zucca, 46, and Florenza Lewis, 45, were treated and released at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. Sandra Russel, 45, and Diana Maitland, 49, were treated and released at County-USC Medical Center.

A witness who got out of the elevator on the 14th floor shortly after that said about a dozen people were cowering near the elevator, not knowing where the fire was coming from.

But, in the center of the room, he saw the gaunt, commanding figure of Lew Wasserman, MCA's 80-year-old chairman and chief executive officer, announcing in "a clear and steady voice" that there was no gunman in the building.

"If you kept your head about you, it was pretty clear that someone was shooting from outside," said the Universal Studios employee who asked that he not be identified. "He could see that a gigantic tinted window was completely shattered and it was clear that this could only have been done by an outside force.

"It's kind of a nice picture. He's tall. He's 80 and his hair is slicked back. He had on a dark suit. He was just standing there imperiously--imperious and commanding. He was not cowed by this."

A spokeswoman for MCA said Wasserman works on another floor, but went to the 14th floor after learning there were wounded people there.

The nightmare drew to a strangely easy close when Los Angeles Police Officers Jerry Theaker and Julias Stewart spotted the gunman, still shooting, as they drove south on Bluffside Drive.

"When we approached he was shooting over the top of a station wagon," Theaker said. He said they ordered Jarvis to put down his gun and ordered him to get down on the ground. "He put the rifle on top of the station wagon and then took a vest off and put it on top of the station wagon," Stewart said. "It was a very tense situation."

"We approached him and told him to get to the ground," Theaker said. "He laid down on the street and put his hands behind his back.

"He appeared quite rational although his actions belie that he was not," Theaker said.

Officer Rigoberto Romero said that as Jarvis was taken into custody he "alluded to the fact that he had some sort of dispute with somebody in the building."

Lt. John Dunkin said two bullets struck the Bank of America building, but he said it was unknown how many rounds hit the MCA tower.

After the shooting, MCA continued operation, but advised all employees that they could go home if they wanted, said Christine Hanson, vice president for corporate communications and public affairs.

Hanson said most chose to remain at work.

"As far as I know, it's business as usual," Hanson said. "They are all concerned, but they are all on the job as far as I know."

The office complex, consisting of three MCA buildings and a Bank of America, was the scene of another shooting in December, 1988, when a former patient from a New Jersey mental institution wanted for three killings in New Mexico shot a Universal Studios guard to death and critically wounded another guard. The gunman, Nathan Nick Trupp, was captured on Bluffside Drive, near where Jarvis stationed himself. Trupp was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a state hospital for the criminally insane.

Jarvis was taken to the North Hollywood Police Station for booking on suspicion of attempted murder and later moved to Parker Center in downtown Los Angeles. An arraignment date had not been announced.

Other than his employment at MCA, little was known about Jarvis.

He lived on the ground floor of a two-story tan stucco apartment building near downtown Pleasanton, a suburb of 54,000 about 15 miles east of San Francisco Bay. Neighbors said he had lived in a ground-floor unit for about eight years and attracted little attention.

His landlord, Larry Koch, said Jarvis left Pleasanton several weeks after the death of his mother, saying he did not have enough money to have the body cremated.

"He told me he was going to just pack up his old station wagon and let it take him somewhere--north, south, east or west--he wasn't sure," Koch said "He had no plans at all. Thinking back now, I guess he was pretty upset."

Also contributing to this story were Times staff writers Alan Abrahamson, Richard Lee Colvin, Hugo Martin, Josh Meyer, Jenifer Warren and Nora Zamichow.

VICTIMS: Terror on 14th-floor. B1

GUNMAN: A grudge against MCA. B6

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°