Woman dials 911 from facial room during shooting

AP News
Posted: Oct 17, 2011 11:17 PM
Woman dials 911 from facial room during shooting

With gunfire blazing and people wailing, a woman hiding in the back of a hair salon quietly pleaded with emergency dispatchers to send help.

"Please hurry," the woman said. "People are screaming and crying."

The recording of her voice on the 911 call was one of seven released Monday by Seal Beach, Calif., police in the aftermath of the Salon Meritage massacre that left eight dead and one severely wounded.

Callers described the same horror. They were cowering behind cars, holed up in back rooms and afraid they were going to die.

Scott Dekraai, the ex-husband of one of the salon workers, was quickly arrested nearby and charged with eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Prosecutors say the 42-year-old former tugboat operator was seeking revenge against his ex-wife, a stylist who worked in the salon, in a custody dispute over their 8-year-old son.

The Orange County district attorney intends to seek the death penalty if Dekraai is convicted.

Sobbing, one woman called while hiding behind a car in the parking lot.

"A gunman came in and killed a bunch of people. They're all lying down on the floor," she said frantically, adding that she got a look at the shooter.

The dispatcher asked if she saw where he went.

"No, I got down and put my hands over my neck like an air raid drill and was just hoping he wasn't gonna kill me," she said, bursting into tears.

In another 911 recording, a caller from a business next door can be heard asking someone else if the doors are locked.

"And how many shots did you hear?" the emergency dispatcher asked.

"He's still shooting right now. He's still shooting right now," the caller said.

"OK. And how many shots have you heard?" the dispatcher asked as someone interjected, "Oh my God."

The caller went on to say she heard 10 shots.

"We need somebody here, like, right now," the caller demanded.

Almost immediately, bits of information about the shooter began to emerge from the callers. A hairstylist who escaped to a nearby business told a dispatcher the gunman wore a Hawaiian-like shirt and was the ex-husband of "one of the girls," but she didn't know his name. Another caller pointed authorities to a man in a white truck.

Police Chief Robert Luman told reporters the first call was received at 1:21 p.m. Within about five minutes, police had located and arrested Dekraai, Luman said.

"A crime such as this is devastating in any community but is particularly profound in a small, close-knit community such as ours," Luman said of the seaside town that has held vigils and erected a makeshift memorial outside the salon.

Dekraai, of nearby Huntington Beach, appeared in an Orange County courtroom on Friday, his shackles clanking as he walked. Relatives and friends of the victims shouted insults at him, with one sobbing woman screaming, "I hate you."

Dekraai was being held without bail. Defense attorney Robert Curtis said Dekraai wasn't getting his anti-psychotic medication in jail _ a statement that prompted prosecutors to say they wouldn't be surprised to see an insanity defense.

Authorities say that after a final conversation with his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, that morning, Dekraai drove to the salon where he knew she would be working.

Eight people were shot inside the salon and only one survived _ customer Harriet Stretz, 73. She had gone to the salon that day to have her hair done by her daughter, Laura Lee Elody, who was killed in the shooting. Stretz was released from the hospital Monday.

Dekraai and Fournier split up in 2006 and divorced the following year. The two had joint custody of their son and had been involved in an increasingly acrimonious custody dispute since Dekraai asked a judge to grant him more time with the boy and change his school.

Both parents were in court the day before the shootings for a custody hearing that was continued until December. They had recently received a report from a court-appointed psychologist that recommended their custody arrangement remain the same, said John Cate, Fournier's attorney in the custody dispute.

The report also urged the former couple to attend counseling to learn how to effectively co-parent, Cate said.