A man crashed a truck through a gate and drove into the Lorimar Studios lot in Culver City late Tuesday afternoon, ignited the vehicle and then fired a shotgun at a sound stage wall before turning the weapon on himself and taking his own life, police said.
The man, who was not immediately identified, died of a chest wound. No other injuries were reported.
Culver City police said the man killed himself when officers, called to the studio lot on Washington Boulevard at 5:10 p.m., approached and ordered him to put down the 12-gauge shotgun.
After the shooting, investigators said they found a practice grenade and canisters of a poisonous gas on the front seat of the flaming vehicle.
The motive behind the incident was still unclear late Tuesday night. But police suggested that the man may have been angered by a business argument.
"There may be a possible business dispute involving one of the on-lot production companies," Capt. Thomas Mahoney said. "We just don't know which one."
A spokesman for Lorimar said he had "no idea" who the man was or what prompted the shooting.
Police said they do not believe he worked for Lorimar, but they were investigating whether he had ties to other production companies that use the studio.
The man, in his early 40s, reportedly shouted angrily about the Lorimar Television production "Dallas" as he fired. "Dallas" is filmed on the Lorimar lot, but its crews were working on location elsewhere in the Los Angeles area Tuesday, the Lorimar spokesman said.
Police said the man drove to the Overland Boulevard gate of the historic movie lot--originally MGM Studios--and handed the guard two canisters of methyl bromide, a poisonous gas resembling chloroform, and said: "You have five minutes to live."
He then rammed the truck through the gate arm and drove into the lot, stopping between two sound stages. He lit the truck on fire by igniting a can of pressurized lubricant, then leaped away and fired half a dozen shotgun rounds into the wall of one of the sound stages, police said.
"At first, we thought it was special effects," said Kelly Hustis, a Teamsters truck driver working on a feature film. "Then we saw the dust fly."
Hustis said the man was "yelling and screaming about something" and "asked for a certain name at the studio."
"He didn't seem to want to hurt anybody," Hustis said. "He stood there for a long time telling a security guard to get back, get back."
The Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb squad, called because of the canisters and the grenade, arrived on the lot by helicopter. Three Culver City Fire Department companies and two paramedic units also responded.
The truck, a rented, 18-foot Chevrolet Custom Deluxe, was parked late Tuesday outside the Culver City Police Station. It had been gutted by the fire.
Police said the dead man had an out-of-state driver's license. Witnesses said he was dressed in jeans and a khaki shirt. His name was being withheld pending notification of relatives.
Several studio employees ran inside buildings when the shooting started, while others who were unaware of what was happening ran outside when they heard the sirens.
"Everybody on the set kind of froze in shock," said Julie Parrish, an actress working on the set of a television show "Perfect Strangers." "But we finished the rehearsal. The show must go on."
Said Capt. Mahoney: "Lorimar couldn't write this."
Times staff writers Tracy Wilkinson and George R. Fry contributed to this story.