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Man Sought in Hospital Attack Kills Himself

The 73-year-old suspected gunman in an assault on a doctor commits suicide at an Echo Park restaurant after police arrive.

September 22, 2003|Erika Hayasaki and Daniel Hernandez | Times Staff Writers

A 73-year-old El Monte man suspected in last week's shooting of a doctor in a Baldwin Park hospital walked into an Echo Park chicken restaurant Sunday afternoon, ordered coffee and mashed potatoes, and fatally shot himself two hours later in front of police, the LAPD said.

Eugene Guevara, who was the focus of a police search since the Friday shooting at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center, shot himself in the stomach and head with a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun outside of Pioneer Chicken on Echo Park Boulevard, minutes after police arrived. They were responding to reports about a suicidal man, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Don Cox. Guevara was taken about 2 p.m. to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Police had identified Guevara from a videotape taken a few minutes after Friday's hospital shooting, in which urologist Reynaldo Hernandez, 49, was shot several times. Hospital spokeswoman Reyna Del Haro said Hernandez remains in stable condition.

She said Guevara was a patient at the hospital, but did not know why he was being treated or if Hernandez was his doctor. Neighbors said Guevara had prostate cancer and had recently been visiting his doctor frequently. They said he was a widower and a nice, private man who lived alone in his one-story El Monte home. He often tended the fruit trees in his yard and talked about politics.

Woon Chung, owner of the Pioneer Chicken restaurant, said Guevara arrived at noon and placed his food order. He was carrying a yellow leather knapsack with a box of Aleve painkillers inside, as well as a wooden cane and a stack of white typing paper with handwriting in uppercase letters that police said was a suicide note. The note was not made public.

"He didn't hurt or talk to anybody," said Chung.

Four of Chung's employees were in the back of the restaurant at the time, and at least three customers were eating inside. One other man was outside near the patio, employees said.

Restaurant employee Francisco Morales said Guevara "looked nervous."

"He must have felt boxed in or something," said Morales, who heard the first shot and then looked outside to see Guevara holding his gun. "I didn't see him put the gun to his head but I heard 'bam' and I thought 'it's over, this guy shot himself,' " he said.

Guevara was shown on a surveillance tape pushing a wheelchair or walker minutes after Friday's shooting, which occurred in an employee lounge in the urology department. Police won't comment on a motive for the shooting, which caused hundreds of people, including patients, to be evacuated for several hours. Hernandez, who could not be reached for comment, was shot once in the neck and twice in the chest, police said.

Neighbors and friends of Hernandez, who lives in Pasadena's Linda Vista neighborhood, said that he is the father of three children, worked long hours and spent time working on his house and yard. He moved to Pasadena about one year ago with his family from Glendale, neighbors said.

Glendale neighbor Suzanne Munemitsu, who lived across the street from the family, described the doctor as "even-keeled."

Another neighbor, Vicky Fanale, said he has a "real sense of humor" and used to dress up with the kids on Halloween. "If I had to sum him up in one word, I'd call him humble."

Lynn Bales, a Pasadena neighbor, said Hernandez is very friendly and even-tempered

"I can't imagine that he would antagonize anyone," she said.

Times staff writers Wendy Thermos, Andrew Blankstein and Cara Mia DiMassa contributed to this report.

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