SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Ducking behind a toilet in a bathroom, stylist Gordon Gallego hoped his life might be spared as an angry gunman sprayed his California salon with bullets.
Outside, people were screaming. Gallego said he heard one of his co-workers, Laura Elody, pleading, “You don’t have to do this, please don’t kill me.”
Shots rang out. He didn’t hear her voice again.
The chilling testimony of Gallego and others who helped victims in the chaotic moments after the Oct. 12 shooting rampage at a Seal Beach hair salon came before an Orange County grand jury in January. A transcript of the proceedings was unsealed Thursday.
The grand jury indicted 42-year-old Scott Dekraai on eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the attack. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the former tugboat operator, who has pleaded not guilty.
Dekraai’s attorney Scott Sanders declined to comment Thursday on the case.
Authorities say Dekraai sprayed Salon Meritage with bullets after he argued with his ex-wife Michelle Fournier earlier in the day over custody of their eight-year-old son. Fournier, a stylist at the salon, and seven others were killed and another person was seriously wounded.
Salon employees were close and spent holidays together as a group with their spouses, Gallego told the grand jury, adding that he considered them to be family.
Gallego testified that he saw Dekraai enter the salon and walk over to Fournier, who was washing co-worker Christy Wilson’s hair at a shampoo bowl. He heard Dekraai say “this is what you wanted, or this is how you wanted it,” before he started firing, according to the transcript.
Gallego grabbed another colleague and ran into the employee bathroom, where he heard more than 30 shots and people screaming.
When he heard men yelling to call 911 and fetch towels, Gallego pried open the bathroom door and climbed over the bleeding body of Elody, his close friend. He went to check on another stylist to see if she was hurt.
“She was face down in a pool of blood,” he said.
Kenneth Caleb, a lunchtime regular at Patty’s Place, a nearby restaurant, told the grand jury a salon employee burst through the door yelling hysterically to call the police, saying “`he is shooting everybody.'”
Caleb recalled looking outside and seeing people running everywhere _ except for one man who walked calmly through the chaotic crowd with “zero expression on his face.”
Caleb said he saw the man walk up next to a parked truck and raise his arm. He heard two gunshots and saw the man, who had a weapon in his hand, get into the truck and drive away.
Authorities say Dekraai had donned a bulletproof vest before heading to the salon that day, where he shot eight people before heading outside and shooting a man who was sitting in his car in the parking lot.
Dekraai was arrested nearby with help from bystanders and told police he committed the shootings, according to documents previously filed with the court in support of a search warrant.
Dekraai and his ex-wife shared custody of their son, but he had been pushing to spend more time with the boy at his Huntington Beach home and have more control over his rearing in what was an increasingly acrimonious situation with Fournier. Before the shooting, a court-appointed psychologist had recommended the former couple’s custody arrangement remain in place.
Family court papers show Dekraai was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a 2007 boat accident left him unable to work. Dekraai also told a court-appointed psychologist that he had been diagnosed as bipolar, according to an attorney for Fournier in the family law case.
The shooting rocked the tight-knit upscale seaside community of Seal Beach, which held hair “cut-a-thons” in the weeks after to raise money for victims’ families.
Dekraai is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 15.
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