VAN NUYS (CBSLA.com) — Ten years ago Thursday, a lawyer leaving the Van Nuys Courthouse became the target of a deranged shooter.
The horrifying gunfire was caught on video because crews were outside to cover the Robert Blake murder trial.
KCAL9 anchor Sharon Tay talked to the LA County Sheriff’s Reserve deputy who tackled the gunman and brought him down.
“I hear a pop, pop, pop,” recalled David Katz.
“And then I realized, it’s a shooting.”
He was off-duty that day, working in traffic court.
Katz watched as 64-year-old William Strier fired six bullets at — and into — lawyer Gerry Curry.
The lawyer tried everything to shield himself from the barrage of bullets — mostly crouching behind a thin tree. He begged for his life; he begged Strier to stop shooting.
CBS cameraman Frank Ali recalls the panic. “We all looked around and we saw this guy dancing behind this tree,” he remembers, “just trying to dodge the gunman. After the first two shots, we’re scrambling to get our cameras on.”
Katz was unarmed during the shooting. In fact, he was ill-equipped to take on a man with a gun. Katz was in a suit and tie.
“I’d been working as a [traffic court] judge and the last thing I wanted to do was get into a shooting,” Katz says. “So I ducked around the corner on Delano Street, like everybody else was doing.”
When he thought a fellow deputy was also shot, he sprang into action.
“Someone came running up to a tow truck driver and said ‘Call 911, there’s a deputy down.’ I thought I needed to get in the fight and help. I came around the corner and I pulled out my badge from my pocket.”
Katz asked a passer-by “Where is the deputy down?” and the man replied “He’s back there, he’s back there.”
The man didn’t break stride, and, Katz noticed, he didn’t look away.
A court photographer who was following Strier yelled out “That’s the shooter!” just as Katz was walking by.
“That moment I took off my jacket and drop my briefcase, I turn around and literally ran as fast as I can and as hard as I can and I hit him as hard as I can,” Katz said.
The hero of the moment says he didn’t hesitate but did know he only had one chance to bring Strier down.
“The only thing going through my mind, I have one change to get him down and I’m gonna take that once chance. So I grabbed him by the neck, spun him around and tackled him.”
Curry, then 53, suffered multiple gunshot wounds that day — four to his arms, one in his neck.
After his release from the hospital, Curry said, “I’d never seen Mr. Strier before. And I walked out of the courthouse after the hearing and a man said, ‘Are you Mr. Curry?’ And I said yes, and he just shot me. I didn’t even see the gun. I heard a pop. I knew I had been shot because the blood splattered in my face. I went to the ground to try to get away from him. I went down and tried to move so I’d be a moving target.”
Curry — a wills and probate attorney — was in court representing a client of a special needs trust for Strier. The trustee said Strier was threatening her life, so she wanted out.
“Strier was upset that Gerry Curry was being paid by the trust fund,” Katz said. “He felt he should be getting that money, and that angered Mr. Strier.”
After the shooting, photographer Ali was surprised at how calm Strier was. “He just seemed cool, calm, collected. He just turned around and put the gun in his pocket.”
Strier had a second gun that day. One that he didn’t get to use.
What he planned to do with the second gun will never be known. He was sentenced to two life terms for attempted murder in 2006, and died in prison.
Katz got a medal of valor and is still a reserve deputy in charge of the Search and Rescue Unit for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
“You don’t really have an opportunity to digest it,” Katz said, matter-of-factly. “You just do it. Thankfully it worked out okay.”
[Editor's Note: Gerry Curry committed suicide about a year and a half ago. His wife, who didn't want to appear on camera, said Curry had battled PTSD in the years following the shooting.]