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Gunman Killed in Shootout

A police officer and a clerk are wounded in Laguna Beach as shots send shoppers and merchants scrambling for cover after holdup.

October 24, 2002|Mai Tran and Janet Wilson | Times Staff Writers

A gunman was killed and two other people -- including a Laguna Beach police officer -- were wounded Wednesday afternoon when an attempted robbery ended in gunfire at an herb store along Laguna Beach's South Coast Highway.

The incident began about 2 p.m. when a slightly built man in dark clothing shot and wounded a clerk at The Herb Import Co., a small shop a few blocks south of Main Beach in a neighborhood of oceanside bungalows, restaurants and boutique shops, police and witnesses said.

Police quickly flooded the area, halting traffic as they surrounded and then exchanged 10 to 15 shots with the robber, police said.

The injured police officer was identified as Lawrence Bammer, 24, who has been on the force about three years, said Lt. Mike Hall. He was reported in excellent condition at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center with unspecified injuries.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 25, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 8 inches; 316 words Type of Material: Correction
Laguna Beach shooting -- A map that appeared in some editions of the California section Thursday misplaced the site of a shooting in Laguna Beach. The shooting took place on the southwest corner of South Coast Highway and Anita Street.

The identities of the gunman and the clerk were not immediately available. The clerk's condition also was not available.

. The gunfire sent passersby and people in nearby businesses and restaurants scrambling for cover.

Police and witnesses said the gunman walked into the shop, pointed a gun at a female clerk and ordered her to give him money. She put an unknown amount of cash into a paper bag and handed it to the gunman, who then began handcuffing a male employee who was also in the store.

But then the gunman shot the man, police said. As the gunman moved to the rear of the store, the wounded man fled, running to the adjacent Seaside Realty office.

"I heard a gunshot and ran out of the store and saw a man wearing all black grabbing his shoulder and yelling that he'd been shot," said Valerie Marjes, 21, a clerk at Second Reef, a surf clothing store across from the shooting scene.

Moments later, police arrived. People on the street directed them to the real estate office, saying the injured man was inside.

The gunman then stepped from the herb shop and opened fire, wounding the officer. The gunman, carrying a duffle bag and backpack, then ducked between vehicles and the gun battle began.

Inside Seaside Realty, John Stanley heard the initial gunshot and ran to the front of his business as the clerk ran in, said building manager Danielle Purcell, who spoke with Stanley moments afterward.

She said Stanley told her the clerk kept repeating that he needed help.

"John said he went outside and all of these police were pointing guns at him," she said. "As he stepped back in the store, the suspect popped up from the corner of the herb shop and was holding a duffel bag or backpack. Then the police started shooting him and [Stanley] ran back inside."

Jessica Sancho, 30, of Laguna Beach was northbound on Coast Highway and slowed when she saw an officer running with a gun.

She heard shots and pulled over as she saw the officer exchange fire with the gunman, who then slipped around the corner to an automotive shop with an RV parked outside.

"They screamed, 'Let us see your hands! Let us see your hands!' " Sancho said.

Then came a volley of 10 to 15 shots. Sancho ducked as bullets struck her car.

John McInnis, an architect in a nearby office, was walking to lunch when he spotted a police car with an officer sprawled across the hood "with his gun drawn, firing again and again and again under the motor home."

John Leon, 35, of Garden Grove and Autumn Cowell, 24, of Anaheim watched the shootout as they lunched at Adolfo's Mexican Food.

"This was like a movie," Leon said. "From beginning to end, it was 45 seconds. It was fast. We just sat there with our mouths open."

Dave Nunimaker, who lives above the automotive shop, arrived home moments after the shooting to see police drag the gunman, head and neck covered in blood, from beneath the RV.

"They dragged him out and cuffed him," Nunimaker said. "He was completely lifeless."

Witnesses said they saw police dump boxes of ammunition from a duffel bag the gunman was carrying.

Nunimaker and others said police performed CPR on the man for about 10 minutes, then quit.

He was taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center, where he was declared dead, according to the Orange County coroner's office.

Bammer, the wounded officer, grew up in Laguna Beach and graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1996, then attended Irvine Valley Community College, said D'Anne LeBon, a friend whose family met Bammer through their church.

A friend of Bammer, Allison Cook, said Bammer was unmarried and involved with the Young Life Christian group at Laguna Beach High School.

Bammer was a police explorer in high school.

He worked for the Orange Police Department before joining his hometown force.

He also has been active with youth groups, building friendships with teens through church and school, D'Anne LeBon and others said.

"There had to be 10 to 15 kids outside the police station making sure Officer Bammer was OK after the word was out that he got shot," she said.

Bammer was supposed to pick up Joe LeBon, 16, D'Anne Lebon's son, to go to church Wednesday afternoon, she said.

After he was shot, Bammer wrote the teen's phone number on a piece of paper and told fellow officers to "call this number and tell him I can't go to the youth group."


Times staff writers Scott Martelle, Jeff Gottlieb, Dave McKibben and H.G. Reza also contributed to this report.

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