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911 audio recordings capture the chaos inside Seal Beach salon

In one call, a woman whispers from inside Salon Meritage's facial room: 'I think a lot of people might have been killed or hurt.'

October 18, 2011|By Nicole Santa Cruz and Lauren Williams, Los Angeles Times
  • Seal Beach Police Sgt. Steve Bowles listens to a 911 audio recording of the shooting inside Salon Meritage.
Seal Beach Police Sgt. Steve Bowles listens to a 911 audio recording of the… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

One woman hid inside the salon's facial room while the gunman fired. Another took shelter behind a car. Others locked themselves in bathrooms.

All were caught in a chaotic scene detailed in seven 911 audio recordings released Monday by the Seal Beach Police Department. The calls were placed after a gunman, later identified as Scott Dekraai, opened fire Wednesday at Salon Meritage, killing eight people and seriously wounding a ninth. Police believe Dekraai, 42, was seeking revenge in a custody battle with his ex-wife, 48-year-old stylist Michelle Fournier, over their 8-year-old son. Fournier was among those killed.

In one call, a woman whispers from inside Salon Meritage's facial room: "I think a lot of people might have been killed or hurt," adding that she "heard the gunshots."

A dispatcher tells the woman and two other people with her not to leave until police arrived. Minutes later, a voice in the background says, "You can come out, it's OK."

In another call, weeping is heard in the background. "You've got to hurry up," a woman says. "He's still shooting." She tells the dispatcher that she heard about 10 shots. Then another woman, presumed to be inside the salon at the time of the attack, gets on the phone.

"He's just trying to shoot everybody in there now," she says.

The first call was made at 1:21 p.m. About five minutes later, police had caught Dekraai, said Acting Police Chief Robert Luman.

"No matter who you are or how well you are trained, when you see a situation like this, it's overwhelming," Luman told reporters Monday afternoon.

Dekraai has been charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said he would seek the death penalty.

The calls, which total about 11 minutes, range in length from 37 seconds to just over four minutes.

A woman's shaky, breathless voice is heard on one: "They're all lying on the floor."

A dispatcher asks, "Did you see which way he went?"

"No," the woman replies. "I got down and put my hands over my neck like an air raid drill and was just hoping he wasn't going to kill me."

The ninth victim, Hattie Stretz, 73, was released from Long Beach Memorial Hospital early Monday afternoon. Stretz was at Salon Meritage to visit her daughter, Laura Lee Elody, who was killed.

As night fell Monday, a memorial was held for Dave Caouette a few doors down from the salon, at a local hangout called Patty's Place. Caouette, a 64-year-old retired Land Rover salesman, was shot as he sat in the driver's seat of his customized Rover parked outside the salon.

On this evening, a bucket of yellow roses took its spot, while Range Rovers packed the parking lot.

Inside the restaurant, people passed out fliers that read, "Beloved husband, loving father, joyful grandfather, loyal friend" beneath a picture of the Seal Beach resident. Inside, a line read: "Take off your watch."

"It was his slogan," said friend Cheril Thiele — a reminder to live in the moment.

Friends said Caouette liked the desert, old mining towns, and mule and Indian routes. His dog often served as his co-pilot on trips in his Range Rover.

Ivonne Meader, a neighbor of Caouette's for 12 years, said the off-road enthusiast was like a father to her.

"He was there for me every time I needed him," she said.

Ed Testa was with Caouette the Monday before he died. The two were planning an off-roading event to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. He described Caouette as a strong, serious, quiet leader.

"We lost a great person," he said. "His life was spectacular."

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Times staff writer Abby Sewell contributed to this report.

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