Ryan McDonald

Fire leads to rumor of barricaded man at Hermosa Beach apartment complex

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Officers secured the complex for about two hours before determining that the account of an armed suspect inside was not accurate. Photos by Ryan McDonald

by Ryan McDonald

More than a dozen police cars surrounded the Playa Pacifica Apartments in South Hermosa Monday afternoon after a man pulled from a small fire in the building falsely told firefighters that another man had locked himself in the bathroom of the burning and had a gun.

The man pulled from the burning unit was treated for smoke inhalation at a nearby hospital, but no one else was injured in the blaze or the standoff, said Sgt. Mick Gaglia of the Hermosa Beach Police Department. It was not immediately clear why the man said  someone inside had a gun. Officers planned to question the man once given approval by doctors.

Los Angeles County firefighters from the Hermosa Beach fire station responded to a call about a fire in the apartments in the 400 block of Herondo Street, near the intersection of Valley Drive. It is not clear what time the fire began, but residents in the area said they heard the building’s fire alarm go off about 3:30 p.m.

Police did not say whether the man pulled from the apartment was a resident of the building. One Playa Pacifica resident, who did not give his name, was standing against a police barricade during the fire. He said he lived on the first floor of the complex, three or four units away from the unit where the fire began. He said he heard shouting and sounds of a physical struggle from the unit. He could not see any smoke, but smelled it.

“The smell was strong. I just wanted to get out of there,” the resident said.

Firefighters exited the building and contacted Hermosa police, who called for backup units from the Redondo Beach Police Department, Gaglia said. Together with the building’s property manager, they cleared residents who were in the complex.

A police officer walks down Herondo Street in South Hermosa after grabbing an assault rifle from a squad car. Police secured the building for about two hours before determining that the account of a man barricaded inside was false.

Police and emergency medical personnel descended on the scene, and traffic was diverted at Second Street, the northern edge of the Playa Pacifica complex, and along  Valley, to the east. On Herondo, squad cars, fire trucks and ambulances were stacked on the west side of the street, from Monterey Boulevard to the crest of the hill approaching Pacific Coast Highway. A police helicopter hovered overhead. Four officers, some armed with assault rifles, took up a position at the main Herondo entrance, and periodically trained their weapons at the interior of the complex.

About 5 p.m., two additional officers arrived with a drone. Then, about 30 minutes later, units began clearing away from the street, and the police helicopter flew away. Gaglia said police piloted the drone to see whether there was anyone inside the apartment unit where the fire began and, seeing no one, sent in officers to check.

“We had to make sure we could bring in the dog and check for the officers’ safety,” Gaglia said.

Police searched the apartment and found no one, and there is not thought to be anyone still at large, Gaglia said.

Police believe the man initially pulled from the building may have started the fire, but officers and firefighters were not able to discern why the man would have done it, Gaglia said.

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