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Hotel Killings Traced to Fight

Police say a victim bumped into man who later killed three and critically injured one.

June 30, 2003|Imran Vittachi and Monte Morin | Special to The Times

A shooting rampage that left four dead and one critically wounded at a San Francisco residential hotel was apparently triggered when a victim bumped into the gunman by accident, police and witnesses said Sunday.

Gunman John Bravard, 53, whom fellow residents described as short-tempered and intense, opened fire in the lobby of the Dalt Hotel Saturday evening, just hours after he had quarreled with another resident at the hotel's elevator. After the shooting, Bravard walked to his fourth-floor room, locked the door and turned the gun on himself, police said.

On Sunday, the sole surviving victim of the shooting clung to life in San Francisco General Hospital's intensive care unit. If Joseph Garcia, 46, does survive his injuries, he will probably suffer paralysis from the waist down, according to his wife, Shakoentela Garcia, 40.

Garcia, a desk clerk at the residential hotel, described a scene of terror as Bravard barged into the lobby of the Tenderloin District hotel about 5 p.m. and unloaded a semiautomatic pistol at a group of hotel residents sitting around the reception desk. Three male tenants died in the shooting.

Speaking through tears in a hospital waiting room Sunday, Garcia said was been working the hotel's front desk the day before when she heard what she thought were firecrackers exploding outside the hotel on Turk Street. She now believes it was the sound of Bravard "testing his gun" before entering.

Garcia said she walked to the front door of the hotel to investigate as Bravard rushed in, carrying a Chinese takeout box in one hand and bumping her in the shoulder. Garcia said she didn't see a gun then, but spun around when she heard shooting behind her and saw a "guy standing up with all these shots in his face."

Panicked, Garcia ran from the lobby. The man who had been shot in the face followed her, lurched across a parking lot, threw open the door to another nearby hotel and collapsed on a desk in the lobby.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Melissa Dubin, an employee of the Hotel Metropolis, where the dying man fled. "He could barely walk when he collapsed onto the desk. He was pretty much gone," she said.

Garcia, whose 6-year-old son was with her at the hotel's front desk at the time of the shooting, returned and saw her husband sitting in a chair with bullet wounds on his neck. Another man sat slumped in a chair.

A third man was found dead on the pavement outside the hotel.

Police are withholding the identities of the three dead, pending notification of relatives.

Authorities and residents of the Dalt Hotel said the shooting might have stemmed from a confrontation Bravard had with one of his victims earlier in the day. The men bumped into each other at the hotel's elevator and Bravard shouted a derogatory term at the man. The two then began arguing.

An employee at a local video store, Bravard was described as a large man and a loner who intimidated other guests with his quick temper and gruff demeanor.

"He was an antisocial guy," said Terry Wilson, a Dalt Hotel employee. "He didn't talk to anybody. He could snap at any time."

At the Dalt Hotel Sunday, a small shrine of flowers and candles stood in the hotel's lobby, as well-wishers hugged Shakoentela Garcia in the hospital's waiting room.

"Joe is a great guy," said Michael Phillips, a close friend of Garcia's husband. "He just caught a stray bullet."

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