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Calls shed light on tragedy


Police have released 911 calls from people reporting last week’s massacre in a Seal Beach, Calif., hair salon.

One of the calls released Monday by the Seal Beach Police Department was made by a woman who hid in the facial room of the Salon Meritage.

In a quiet, muffled voice, she told the 911 dispatcher, "I think a lot of people might have been killed or hurt."

Another woman called 911 while hiding behind a car in the parking lot. The sobbing woman told the dispatcher, "A gunman came in and killed a bunch of people."

The recordings were made in the chaotic and terrifying moments after the gunman barged into the salon and opened fire, killing eight people and leaving one wounded. Seven people called police in the minutes after the Wednesday afternoon shooting began, including the woman inside the facial room and six others who phoned from nearby businesses and the parking lot.

Scott Dekraai, the ex-husband of one of the slaying victims, is charged with murder and attempted murder. The Orange County district attorney intends to seek the death penalty if Dekraai is convicted.

Some callers had locked themselves in bathrooms and refused to come out until police arrived. Others tried to remain calm and gave orders to lock doors while rattling off a quick description of the suspect to police dispatchers.

Sobbing, one woman called while hiding behind a car in the parking lot. "A gunman came in and killed a bunch of people. They’re all lying down on the floor," she said frantically, adding that she got a look at the shooter. The dispatcher asked if she saw where he went. "No, I got down and put my hands over my neck like an air raid drill and was just hoping he wasn’t gonna kill me," she said, bursting into tears.

Almost immediately, bits of information about the shooter began to emerge from the callers. A hairstylist who escaped to a nearby business told a dispatcher the gunman wore a Hawaiian-like shirt and was the ex-husband of "one of the girls," but she didn’t know his name. Another caller pointed authorities to a man in a white truck.

Police Chief Robert Luman said the first call was received at 1:21 p.m. Within about five minutes, police had located and arrested Dekraai, Luman said.

The release of the 911 tapes comes less than a week after the shooting.

In Hawaii the Star-Advertiser recently won a partial victory in its lawsuit to force the Honolulu Police Department to release 911 tapes from the June 3 H-1 freeway shooting that killed one woman and injured two people. While police released five tapes this month, they are still withholding four that involve phone calls from the 16-year-old daughter of the woman shot to death, the two people wounded and a fourth caller who described the car of the shooting suspect. The city contends that the release would violate the privacy rights of those callers and might hamper prosecutors and defense lawyers in getting those callers to cooperate in the criminal case.

Star-Advertiser lawyer Jeffrey Portnoy has argued that the public’s right to know about the calls overrules the privacy rights of those callers who have already been identified by the news media and will be testifying in the criminal trial of suspect Toby Stangel, who is charged with murder, attempted murder and related counts.

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