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Frank Girardot: From peril to just a giggle

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityI arrived 15 minutes later. Deputies with guns drawn were holding the north end of a half-mile perimeter in the heart of a densely populated neighborhood. I stood behind a car and watched things for a bit. I see guns as tools of destruction. I know I’m not alone. I knew a homicide detective who kept his piece in a paper bag in his desk drawer in the old Hall of Justice. Don’t get me wrong. I own a nice (completely dismantled) bolt-action rifle. Wednesday morning there was a report from Rosemead of “shots fired, possible officer down” crackling over the newsroom scanner. The sound of the radio traffic reminded me of the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery that turned into a shootout between the LAPD and a pair of armed robbers and culminated in a bloody mess. The North Hollywood incident ended with 16 cops and civilians wounded in a firefight. When it was over, gunmen Emil Matasareanu, 30, of Altadena and Larry Phillips, 26, of Rowland Heights were dead. In the heat of the moment Wednesday I grabbed my press credentials and rushed out of the newsroom to where the action was. I’ve fired .22s, .38s, .45s, 9s, .357s and .44 Magnums (“the most powerful handgun in the world,” as “Dirty Harry” Callahan once said). I’ve taken turns with .410-gauge bird shotguns and powerful pump-action 12-gauge riot guns. I’ve shot at watermelons, tin cans, paper targets and (I’m ashamed to admit) a bird or two and a couple of road signs in my youth. But it amazed me to see how few residents of Rosemead shared my fear of well-aimed pistols and shotguns that were clearly in a safety-off position. Women with umbrellas to shield them from the sun thought nothing about approaching gun-pointing deputies from down-range. Men on bicycles rolled across the street, seemingly unaware that they were in a pretty dangerous place. I’ve watched a lot of Westerns in my day. I always thought civilians took cover in the nearest saloon they could find. Not in Rosemead. Not Wednesday. Reporter Jennifer McLain described the situation: “As time dragged on and deputies stood with guns in their hands, mothers walked by with strollers, neighbors stopped to ask questions and vehicles drove past.” Fortunately cops know the danger oblivious bystanders pose to themselves in these situations. “You try to get everybody out of the kill zone,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Osterman said. “You want to keep them from becoming victims or hostages.” What started in a panic though, ended with a giggle. The “gunfire” a couple of deputies believed they encountered at Zapopan Park was nothing more than an exploding Bic cigarette lighter. No one was hurt. Although they could have been. Either stupidly or otherwise. I know. I’ve seen videos of exploding lighters on YouTube. frank.girardot@sgvn.com (626) 962-8811 Ext. 2717 www.insidesocal.com/sgvcrime 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more