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2 are shot dead at Laguna resort

Police say they fired into the couple's room when their commands weren't obeyed. A gun is found.

April 23, 2007|Dan Weikel and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

Two guests at the Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach were killed by gunfire Sunday during a confrontation with police at the door of their hotel room.

The incident occurred shortly before 8 a.m. as police investigated reports of a distraught woman with a gun on the south side of the posh resort.

The woman was in one of the hotel's bungalows, where she was arguing with a man believed to be her husband, police said.

Officers said they fired into the guest quarters after the woman repeatedly refused to obey their commands. According to authorities, a handgun was found inside the room after the shooting.

But it was unclear whether it was police shots that killed both people, said Sgt. Jason Kravetz of Laguna Beach police. Authorities are looking into several possibilities, including whether the woman shot the man -- perhaps during the confrontation with police. Kravetz said he did not know whether the woman had fired any shots.

The deaths were the first homicides in Laguna Beach in almost four years.

"It is extremely unusual to have an incident like this in our community and at one of our resorts," Kravetz said. "The crime rate is very low here."

Police described the man and woman as middle-aged and guests of the hotel. They were withholding their names pending notification of relatives.

Kravetz said the case had been referred to the Orange County district attorney's office, which investigates officer-involved shootings.

The Montage resort, which has 262 rooms and cost $200 million to build, is on the bluffs above the Pacific in South Laguna. Rooms with ocean views go as high as $895 a night, while the bungalows are $2,200 a night.

On Sunday afternoon, police had hung yellow tape to cordon off the Manheim bungalow units. A Sheriff's Department van was parked in front of the resort.

Investigators searched the bushes for evidence, while hotel staff kept visitors and guests away from the area.

Guests said they were awakened by a hammering sound, which they later learned was gunfire.

Susan Neisloss, a Montage spokeswoman, confirmed that there had been a fatal domestic dispute involving a couple at the resort.

She described the event as an "isolated situation confined to two guests who knew each other."

Neisloss said hotel security responded immediately and summoned police, who secured the guests' room and surrounding area.

Hotel security first contacted police at 7:40 a.m. about a domestic dispute in a bungalow, police said.

As officers drove to the hotel, Kravetz said, the department received three or four other calls from members of the public, who said they saw a woman with a gun on the south side of the resort and in the parking lot of neighboring Treasure Island Park.

"More and more calls kept coming in from citizens and hotel security," Kravetz said.

"Witnesses told us she was running around the property waving a gun."

*

dan.weikel@latimes.com

christine.hanley@latimes.com

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