[UPDATED with Cops, Firefighters Thanked:] Seal Beach Police Praised, Not Faulted, at Town Hall
UPDATE, OCT. 28, 11:05 A.M.: About 100 people turned out for Thursday night's town hall at McGaugh Elementary School, and the majority opinion was gratitude for the job Seal Beach police and firefighters did in the face of the senseless Salon Meritage massacre that claimed eight lives. Police Chief Bob Luman expressed his pride over the response of his force, while District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, addressing the court case ahead for the suspected worst mass killer in Orange County history, predicted a presumed insanity defense will not work.
Counselors from the nonprofit Crisis Response Team explained the grief process and help available to residents, who were also given an opportunity to speak. The highlight of the evening came when Michelle Fournier's ex-husband Steve Huff thanked the community for their support.
Huff added that the 8-year-old son of the slain stylist and her ex-husband-turned-prime suspect Scott Evans Dekraai is "doing remarkably well."
Across town, the tragedy has been on the mind of MMA star George St-Pierre, who signed autographs to raise money for victims.
If only we could throw Dekraai into the octagon with the fighter. We'll even let him wear his bulletproof vest.
ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 27, 8:27 A.M.: Seal Beach holds a town hall meeting tonight where the topic will be the police response to the Oct. 12 Salon Meritage massacre, the worst mass killing in Orange County history. Eight people were killed, and the 73-year-old mother of one murder victim was critically injured although she is recovering.
But the police response belongs at the end of any list of things to criticize about this senseless tragedy.
The town hall is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at McGaugh Elementary School, 1698 Bolsa Ave., Seal Beach.
Tapes of phone calls from inside the hair salon have been released, but it was a 9-1-1 call from outside at 1:21 p.m. that originally sent Seal Beach cops to the location. They arrived to find multiple gunshot victims, people who had not been hit cowering in fear and others who managed to make it outside.
Looking for someone to fault? Scott Evans Dekraai.
Courtesy of Orange County District Attorney's Office
Within five minutes of getting the call, police had their suspect in custody. Alleged mass killer Scott Evans Dekraai had been seen fleeing the area in his SUV by construction workers who gave cops his description. The one-time Marine's vehicle was stopped within a half mile of the salon.
He was headed toward his home in Huntington Beach. Although he and his SUV were loaded for bear, he cooperated with officers, surrendering peacefully. He was already in handcuffs when officers removed his overshirt to reveal a bullet-proof vest, which was removed. Thus, the famous man-boob images splashed across the media.
Some have speculated Dekraai was headed for his 8-year-old son's elementary school, which could have created an even more gruesome playground for a mass killer. Police and prosecutors would not confirm that at a press conference where District Attorney Tony Rackauckas revealed he will seek the death penalty for Dekraai.
The investigation is continuing. Meanwhile, since that afternoon of Oct. 12, the Seal Beach force has juggled constant press conference, funerals for eight victims and now a town hall, all the while receiving a barrage of calls from reporters, concerned family members and others in the small, tight-knit community.
One issue that was raised closely after the shootings was the police department's reluctance to reveal the names of victims. It was said people in the community needed to know the identities so mourning could begin. But the media got around it anyway by getting names of the dead and injured confirmed from friends and loved ones.
These have been surreal times, but unless it's revealed something like a smoking-gun letter from Dekraai detailing what he was about to do was ignored by Seal Beach police, the department deserves the community's gratitude tonight.
"We probably could not appreciate the level of community angst and anxiety that would have developed had this suspect remained at large," said interim Police Chief Robert Luman (via Patch). . . . . I feel our police department response by anyone's measure was prompt, efficient and courageous."
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