Trader Joe’s Employee Helped Hostages Escape Through Window During Deadly Standoff

Damian DovarganesAP Images

According to NBC 4, one man involved in the tense, two-hour standoff inside a Trader Joe’s on Saturday afternoon is now being hailed as a hero.

Sean Gerace was reportedly working in the back room of the Trader Joe’s, which is located in Silver Lake near Hyperion when he heard the commotion as the gunman entered the store.

As screaming and gunfire commenced, he ran up the stairs to the second floor, collecting co-workers along the way. The small group made their way into a storage area and barricaded themselves inside. Noticing SWAT was on the scene outside, Gerace formulated a plan.

“I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window, and just tried to get the attention of a SWAT officer.”

Gerace motioned to the ladder, asking if it was OK for him and his companions to exit the building. The officer gave him a thumbs up, so Gerace and his co-workers descended the ladder to safety.

According to CNN, downstairs on the main floor, 91-year-old Dan Kohles had just arrived and was walking into the supermarket when the suspect crashed his car into a pole.

“Then this guy comes out of the car and starts running toward TJs. I look behind me and there were two police guys coming with heavy guns, then boom boom boom boom, so I go into TJ’s and I see this guy and he comes in. And I see the two front glass doors shot out. I look around and I see a TJ’s employee laying on the ground, then all the help was laying on the ground.”

Police opened fire, shattering the glass doors, and Kohles hit the floor along with other customers. Kohles stated it was about 30 minutes until the LAPD came in and rescued them, saying they helped carry him across the parking lot then “sort of tossed me over a wall.”

Witness Devin Field, a writer for The Jimmy Kimmel Show, was in the vicinity of the Trader Joe’s when the incident began. He said the suspect was carrying a pistol, and “just started opening fire on the police behind him,” Field said. As police returned fire and glass shattered, Field and the others flattened themselves on the parking lot surface and waited for the all-clear.

“After he was inside the store for a little while they had me crawl away from the scene and run away around the corner.”

According to CNN, Miguel Jeffrey Trujillo Cerventes was also outside in the Trader Joe’s parking lot when the incident began. “He was very focused in getting out of the cops’ vision,” Trujillo said. “The exchange of bullets were all in an instant.”

One woman was shot and killed inside the Trader Joe’s during the standoff, which lasted around two hours with hostages slowly trickling from the store. SWAT team members rescued children and a dog, carrying them to safety. A few remaining hostages reportedly talked the suspect into giving up his gun, and he asked for handcuffs before exiting the building and surrendering to police.

The suspect, who remains unidentified, is accused of shooting his grandmother seven times at her home in southern LA. He reportedly then shot his girlfriend, who was also at the scene, then forced her into his grandmother’s car and fled the scene. Police were able to track him using LoJack technology.