Moments after going on a shooting rampage at a Seal Beach beauty salon where his ex-wife worked, a “very calm” gunman shot his eighth victim in the parking lot before driving away, a witness to Orange County’s worst mass killing told a grand jury, according to transcripts released today, May 4.
Kenneth Caleb, a regular at Patty’s Place restaurant next to Salon Meritage, stared through a “chaotic scene” last Oct. 12 to see Scott Evans Dekraai in the parking lot about six feet away.
“Everybody is running but this one gentleman, and at first when I looked at him, I thought he was a derelict and he just didn’t understand what was going on, and he was putting himself in harm,” Caleb told the grand jury in January.
“He had zero expression on his face,” Caleb continued. “He had, it looked like a semi-limp as he walked. His shoulders were erect and square, with his face still kind of downward. Casual calm stroll, as if you were just enjoying the park.”
After Dekraai shot David Caouette, 64, in his Range Rover parked outside the salon, the gunman got into his pickup truck and calmly started to drive away, according to Caleb, who said he was trying to jot down the license plate number.
At one point, Dekraai stopped the truck, “and he looks back down the direction towards Salon Meritage and directly at me,” Caleb testified. “And at that point in time I panic, like, oh, I don’t know what he is going to do, if he is going to fire another shot, so I kind of try to run towards a car for cover.”
Dekraai, however, slowly made a left turn out of the parking lot and drove away, Caleb testified.
Another witness, who worked as a hairstylist at the salon for 12 years, told the 17 grand jury members how he saw Dekraai enter the business and gun down ex-wife Michelle Founier as she was shampooing the hair of a client, Christy Wilson.
“I heard him blurt out, `This is what you wanted, or this is how you wanted it,’ and started shooting both girls,” Gordon Gallego testified.
When asked how many gunshots he heard, he replied, “uncountable.”
Gallego testified that he “grabbed another co-worker and ran to the back employee bathroom.”
As Gallego and co-worker Lisa Powers took refuge in the darkened bathroom, he heard another victim, Laura Elody, try to seek haven in the “facial room” by banging on the door.
“I heard her stop banging on the door and lean up against the bathroom door,” Gallego testified. “Obviously Scott followed her into there, and she begged him not to shoot her.”
Prosecutor Dan Wagner asked him what he heard her say.
“You don’t have to do this. Please don’t kill me,” Gallego responded.
He said he then he heard Elody being shot.
“I heard her take her last breath,” he testified.
After that, there was silence for about a minute before he heard gunfire in the parking lot, Gallego testified.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals last month ordered the release of most of the grand jury transcripts that led to the indictment. Goethals decided he would keep 29 pages of the transcripts sealed, as well as some other legal filings in the case against Dekraai, who faces the death penalty if convicted.
Deputy Public Defenders Scott Sanders and Martin Schwarz had asked the judge to seal all of the grand jury transcripts as well as exhibits in the case. Attorney Ashley Kissinger, representing the Orange County Register, argued for release of all of the grand jury material.
Dekraai is due back in court on Aug. 10 for a pretrial hearing. His trial is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15.
Dekraai is charged with eight counts of murder, with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, and one count of attempted murder involving a woman who was shot at Salon Meritage, but survived.
Dekraai is accused of walking into the salon and gunning down his 48-year-old ex-wife, with whom he had been involved in a bitter child custody battle, before opening fire on others inside the business, including Wilson, 47, and Elody, 46.
Also killed were the salon’s owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; and David Caouette, 64.