Reporting Michele Gile
SEAL BEACH (CBS) — A group of people, who aided and comforted victims inside Salon Meritage during a gunman’s deadly rampage last month, said that they do not want to be called heroes during an exclusive interview with CBS2 News about that tragic day.
“We heard the shots and, as I came around, I saw the subject coming out of the building,” said Doug Childers, who was the first person inside Salon Meritage, just minutes after alleged shooter, Scott Evans Dekraai began his rampage on October 12 in Seal Beach.
“He exited with the gun in the air. He brought the gun down, barrel down and then brought the gun back up,” Childers said, adding that shooter then aimed it at him.
The retired Marine and former firefighter ran toward the danger, toward the gunman. He said his training kicked in — he knew that he had to help.
“There were no sounds when I first came into the building. I immediately started checking individuals and checking for a second shooter to make sure that there wasn’t a second shooter, as I went through the building, went through the rooms,” Childers said. “And then at that point I saw that I was a little bit overwhelmed, I called for two more of my workers to come over with their first aid kits.”
Salon owner Randy Fannin and Dekraai’s ex-wife, stylist Michelle Fournier were gunned down, along with Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Lee Elody, 46; and Michele Daschbach Fast, 47.
Another woman who was shot — 73-year-old Hattie Stretz — lay critically wounded in the corner.
Childers and two construction workers, including trained EMT Brendan Peña, went one-by-one to each of the victims, while the smell of gun smoke lingered in the air. They said the scene was chaotic.
“I had never been in the Salon, so initially my senses were kind of getting a lay of the land of how the place was laid out. Where were bodies, where were people? What are they doing, who is moving, who is not? Doug was already in there helping out,” Peña said.
Mike Sauerwein heard the initial volley of shots and said he saw the gunman casually walk out of the Salon, shoving a gun in his front pocket and head toward the parking lot.
Then three more shots rang out, he said.
David Caouette, 64, was fatally shot outside in his Range Rover.
Mike Sauerwein made the 911 call from his mobile phone.
“For several days afterward, some of the images were coming into my head. And you just kind of choke back emotion and tears. I know that there was nothing more I could have really done, realistically, but there’s always that feeling, ‘what could have gone differently,’” Sauerwein recalled.
“I’ve given that a lot of thought and I wouldn’t have done anything differently… I would have still gone in.” Childers said.
We asked him why and his answer was simple — “Because people needed help.”
Childers and his colleagues have attended many of the funerals for the victims and they have also met with survivor Hattie Stretz. He said it was important for them to reconnect with the people involved in the tragedy.