Video: Salon shooting 911 calls released

Scott Dekraai
Jae C. Hong  /  AP
Scott Dekraai, suspect in the Seal Beach Salon shooting, appears in a courtroom in Santa Ana, Calif., last Friday.
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updated 10/17/2011 9:00:34 PM ET 2011-10-18T01:00:34

Locked inside a facial room at the back of a hair salon, a woman dialed 911 and pleaded with dispatchers to send someone to help the people who screamed and cried as gunfire raged outside the door.

Hiding with two others, she spoke in a soft, muffled voice, fearing someone might hear her as she described the gunman and said he had a problem with one of the stylists at Salon Meritage.

"I think a lot of people might have been hurt," the caller said, according to a police transcript of the 911 call released Monday.

"Do you think somebody is hurt?" the dispatcher asked in the difficult-to-hear recording.

"Yes. Please hurry," the woman pleaded.

"People are screaming and crying," she later said.

The recordings were made in the chaotic and terrifying moments after the gunman barged into the salon and opened fire, killing eight people and leaving one wounded.

Seven people called police in the minutes after the Wednesday afternoon shooting began, including the woman inside the facial room and six others who phoned from nearby businesses and the parking lot.

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 the stylist 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.

Some callers had locked themselves in bathrooms and refused to come out until police arrived. Others tried to remain calm and gave orders to lock doors while rattling off a quick description of the suspect to dispatchers fielding calls for the Seal Beach Police Department.

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 an 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 is 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.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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