Neighbors on Saturday described a chaotic, terrifying scene when a fierce gun battle erupted at a West Adams underground restaurant that left three people dead and 12 injured.
Around midnight, said one neighbor who asked not to be identified, she was putting her dog to bed for the night when she heard a commotion down the block. She and her husband knew there was a party going on at the restaurant, which occupies a single-family home on a residential street, because they could hear music. So at first, she said she thought she heard what sounded “like fireworks."
There was a momentary pause, she said, then: “It was just ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. It didn’t stop. It just kept going. ... Really loud.”
“It was a series [of gunshots] first, like really fast, then a pause, almost like someone reloaded,” she said. “It was specific, as if someone was pointing at people,” she said.
The neighbor estimated she heard about 20 gunshots total and said she believed the gathering might have been a birthday party. The neighbor ran to the window and watched people run past her house, screaming. Some held beer bottles, she said. Many jumped in their cars and sped away, she said. Within 10 minutes, police helicopters appeared overhead and fire engines were parked on the street.
Resident Blair Hamilton said he heard what he estimated to be was 20 gunshots, he came out of his house and saw people “running every which way…. Total chaos."
Hamilton, 58, said he saw a older woman sitting on the curb with a bloodied face. Two other women sat next to her, at least one of whom also appeared to be injured, he said. There was also a girl lying on the curb, Hamilton said. She was moving, he said, and being attended to by another girl.
There were about 50 people inside the restaurant in the 2900 block of Rimpau Boulevard when an argument broke out, police said.
Three men left the restaurant and returned with firearms and began shooting at another group. Others at the restaurant also opened fire, and some diners were caught in the crossfire.
A motive for the shooting is still unclear.
Some residents said they didn’t know much about the makeshift restaurant. One said that on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, cars park all along her street, including some in no-parking zones. The street starts filling up in the early afternoon, and empties out around 1 a.m., she said.
“We can barely get in our neighborhood,” the woman said.
Only after reading news reports Saturday did the woman say she found out the house was operating as a restaurant. Both neighbors said they did not find such gatherings disruptive and found the people who attended them seemed very nice.
Deputy Chief Bill Scott, head of the LAPD’s South bureau, said his officers were still trying to piece together what happened.
"This is real tragic. We a lot of sorting out to do. When the shooting started, everyone scattered,” he said. “Our detectives are getting a better picture of what unfolded.”
11:05 a.m.: This story was updated with information from an additional witness.
This article was first published at 10:42 a.m.