A gunman armed with an assault rifle and six other weapons fired about 200 shots from his apartment overlooking Interstate 5 in Glendale on Thursday, closing the freeway for more than four hours and forcing nearby residents to duck for safety.
The shots from the apartment, which began about 11 a.m., continued off and on for more than 45 minutes. Glendale police returned fire. The gunfire left the apartment complex pocked with bullet holes and littered with debris dislodged by the shots.
Finally, just before 3:30 p.m., after lobbing in several tear gas grenades, police stormed the suspect’s apartment. Officers said they found Jorge Beeton, 47, dead on the floor. The cause of death was not immediately clear.
Beeton was a former Pinkerton security guard licensed by the state to carry a firearm. A spokesman for Pinkerton said Beeton left his job voluntarily in 2000. Neighbors said he found another security job with a different firm.
Michael Eng, 38, part-owner of the apartment complex, said Beeton had been depressed.
“He lost his job a couple of months ago,” Eng said. “He was two months behind in rent.”
Beeton “lived totally alone,” Eng said. “He was a loner.... He had no friends, no family, no visitors, at least none I knew of.”
Sheila Renfer, a former manager of the complex, said Beeton was “a sweetheart of a guy,” but was troubled. She said Beeton called Glendale police on several occasions to complain that people in the complex were harassing him or threatening to beat him because they believed he was a police officer.
When she heard noises Thursday morning, Rener said, she went outside and “saw stucco flying out. I knew right then, it was George.”
Despite all the gunfire, no one else was injured, although one resident said some of the bullets came close.
Bullets “were ricocheting off the balcony across the way, with little bits of stuff hitting my window,” said Meghan Reyes, 29, a radio traffic reporter who lives in a unit across from the second-floor apartment from which the gunman was shooting.
“I was crouched down for what must have been more than an hour, dripping sweat, too scared to think,” she said. “It was tense in here.”
The shootings closed part of the Golden State Freeway, one of the state’s principal north-south highways, and its connectors to California 134, a major artery between the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, until shortly after 4 p.m. Traffic was detoured onto surface roads, causing major street congestion that lasted well into rush hour.
Backups at one point extended into downtown on the northbound I-5 and back to Sun Valley on the southbound side. Caltrans used 15 of its roadside message boards, the same ones used in Amber alerts, to tell drivers approaching the interchange, as well as drivers on other freeways, that the roadway was closed.
Within 10 minutes of the first gunshots, Glendale police received several calls from neighbors reporting that a man was shooting toward I-5 from the Griffith Park Dude Ranch apartment complex in the 400 block of Paula Avenue. The junction of the two freeways is about 100 yards south of the apartments.
Glendale Police Chief Randy G. Adams said the suspect fired several shots through the walls of his own apartment into neighboring apartments.
Neighbor Onofre Gutierrez, 61, interviewed by phone during the standoff, said the walls in the apartments are thin, and with all the bullets flying, “it’s almost like being in a battlefield.”
Neighbor Les Martin, 72, also interviewed during the standoff, said he took refuge in his bathtub.
“It was constant ‘Pow! Pow! Pow!’ ” Reyes said. “Five minutes later, I looked out my window, and I could see two officers crouched near a car, taking cover because they were under fire. Two other officers returned heavy fire, and the officers [near the car] ran to safety.”
Police said the gunman was found to have seven firearms, including a semiautomatic assault rifle.
Several neighbors were evacuated, and police used an armored vehicle to protect one woman who had crawled down an outside stairway to safety. Other residents of the complex were told to stay inside.
As the standoff dragged on into the late afternoon, several tenants, contacted by telephone, complained that they couldn’t leave.
“I’m ready to go outside,” Jennifer Hardie, 47, said about 2 p.m. “I’ve got to walk my dogs.”
At Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, about six blocks from the apartments, Principal Maria Gandera called police and received assurance that none of her pupils were in danger. Nonetheless, she made sure that each child was accompanied by an adult for the trip home when school let out.
Delores Bario, whose two daughters attend the school, arrived home from work at 2:30 p.m. to a ringing phone.
“It was the school,” she said. “I was so afraid. I didn’t know what was happening.”
Bario rushed to the school, where Gandera assured her that all was well.
Because part of the apartment complex remained cordoned off Thursday night, about 30 residents spent the night at a Red Cross shelter at the elementary school.
Meghan Reyes, the traffic reporter, said she seldom talked to Beeton, but saw him often.
“He seemed like a regular Joe Schmoe,” Reyes said. “But I guess he had issues.”
This story was written from reports by Bettina Boxall, Stephanie Chavez, Jia-Rui Chong, Rich Connell, Richard Fausset, Karima Haynes, Michael Krikorian, Mitchell Landsberg, Caitlin Liu, Hilda Munoz, David Pierson, Doug Smith, Julie Tamaki, Richard Winton and Joy Woodson.