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An employee at the Trader Joe's hostage standoff helped his coworkers escape through an emergency ladder out the window

Business Insider logo Business Insider 7/22/2018 Matthew Michaels

los ángeles trader joe's hostage standoff © Provided by Business Insider los ángeles trader joe's hostage standoff

Sean Gerace was working at a Los Angeles-area Trader Joe's on Saturday when a gunman entered the supermarket. Gerace quickly leaped into action and helped several coworkers escape.

Gerace told NBC Los Angeles that he was working in the backroom when the gunman entered the Trader Joe's. He said he heard screaming and gunfire then "ran upstairs, grabbed a couple of coworkers, made my way into a back section of the storage area upstairs."

He and his coworkers couldn't safely enter the main area of the store, he told NBC, so they fled to an the upstairs storage area. Gerace said he "grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, [and] put the ladder out the window."

Once the ladder was hanging out the window, Gerace said he tried to get the attention of a SWAT officer. "Once I got his attention," he said, "I indicated I wanted to go down the ladder, and he gave me a thumbs up."

Others who couldn't escape became hostages. Footage from the scene showed police officers rescuing children and hostages being released from the store during the hours-long standoff.

Authorities said they believe the gunman first shot his grandmother and girlfriend, then opened fire on police officers during a pursuit, crashed his car outside the Trader Joe's, and ran inside.

One woman was killed before police were able to take the suspect into custody, according to the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

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