Day of Terror
Man kills three and wounds two in Saturday shooting spree on Summit Avenue
By André Coleman 07/17/2014
Pasadena police officials Monday released the 911 calls made by terrified neighbors on Summit Avenue during a shooting spree on Saturday that left three people dead and two others injured.
Police say John Izael Smith, 44, began firing a semi-automatic rifle shortly before 4:30 p.m. after a dispute with his landlord, killing Maria Teresa Aguiar, 59, Luis Fernando, 92, and Joseph Uribe, 31, a Good Samaritan who ran toward the gunfire in an effort to help.
Two additional victims were grazed by bullets, but they were not hospitalized, authorities said.
“There’re gunshots in front of my house,” said one caller. “1710 N. Summit Ave. I don’t see anyone on the street. All I could hear was gunshots, and I saw, like, something with gunshots, I don’t know where. I’m in the back of the house. I’m not in the front of the house.”
Another frantic caller told dispatchers that he heard at least 15 gunshots, but could not see where the gunfire was coming from.
“There’s a shooting in the 1700 block of Summit. I didn’t see anything. I just saw people running and heard gunshots, at least about 15,” the caller stated.
The violence broke out as Pasadena celebrated its annual party on the Colorado Street Bridge in West Pasadena. The emergency forced many city officials to miss the event as they headed to a command post set up on Summit Avenue to stay abreast of the unfolding situation.
After he allegedly opened fire, Smith reportedly left his house and started shooting at people walking down the street. He re-entered the house and barricaded himself inside before police could arrive.
When officers responded to the scene near the corner of Penn Street, Aguilar’s lifeless body was still in the street. But they were unable to reach Aguilar due to the heavy gunfire. The barrage of gunshots forced one officer to take cover behind his police cruiser, which was riddled with bullet holes.
The constant gunfire also made it impossible for officers to determine where the shooting was coming from, according to Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez. This prevented officers from returning fire, said Sanchez, adding officers did not fire a single shot during the standoff.
“Our officers do not fire their weapons indiscriminately,” Sanchez said. “It was a single-story domicile and from their vantage point they could not determine where the shooter was. Had they made that determination, in this situation lethal force would have been justified.”
Smith dialed the emergency number 911 a short time later and told police dispatcher Diane Marin, “I just shot somebody.”
Marin relayed messages to Smith from the Police Department through fellow police dispatcher Alexis Bartoli, who was talking with police. After speaking with Marin for several minutes, Smith finally agreed to surrender and told Marin, “I’m giving myself up, I’m coming out.”
Marin said that her training helped her remain calm during the emergency.
“My main concern was the safety of the officers,” Marin said. “I was concerned about what he would do to the officers.”
Even though Smith agreed to come out peacefully, Sanchez said that officers remained on alert because they did not know if he would keep his word.
“He wanted to surrender and it was my job to help facilitate his surrender,” said Bartoli.
Smith was arrested on suspicion of murder and was being held in Los Angeles County Jail on $1 million bail. Police say the shooting may stem from a landlord-tenant dispute, but they would not elaborate on that.
According to Sanchez, Smith had never been arrested by the Pasadena police and has no criminal record. Police recovered a semi-automatic weapon and two handguns at the scene. He also had more than 90 rounds of ammunition in his home. Sanchez said that the weapons had been purchased legally.
“It’s a tremendous tragedy,” said Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, who represents the area where the shooting happened. Robinson is chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee.
“I send my deepest condolences to the victims of this senseless act of violence. I thank the police department, 911 dispatch personnel, fire department and community members for acting quickly and responsibly to bring this incident to an end. This could have been a much worse. We have to be careful not to become desensitized to violence. We can distance ourselves to believe it happens somewhere else to someone else, but that all ends when it happens on your street, in your neighborhood, in your city, to your family,” Robinson said.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said the tragedy has put the city in the company of other communities that have been forced to deal with mass murderers, such as Sandy Hook, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
“What will it take for the nation to act on senseless gun violence affecting communities? I am calling for laws that will keep guns out of the hands of people impacted by mental illness,” Bogaard said.
Sanchez said detectives did not know if Smith was suffering from mental illness.
“The shooting on Summit Avenue was a tragic and horrific incident,” said Sanchez. “The suspect willfully murdered and injured innocent people without warning as he fired more than 40 rounds from a semi-automatic rifle. However, the courage of our dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and community members who valiantly tried to help the victims is impressive and speaks to the resolve of our community.”