DOWNEY, Calif. -- Several people who were held hostage by an armed carjacking suspect at a Chris & Pitts restaurant in Downey are speaking out.
The suspect, identified as 41-year-old Eddie Tapia, led authorities on a wild chase Thursday night that came to an end when officers performed a PIT maneuver near Lakewood Boulevard and Gallatin Road.
But that didn't stop the suspect. He fired shots into the air as he bailed on foot and ran inside Chris & Pitts restaurant, where dozens of people were dining.
"We could hear screams, children screaming," said Oscar Madriles.
Madriles was just finishing dinner when the suspect barged in.
"He was very willing to let people out, but he was focused on keeping people in because he wanted some type of leverage," he said. "He kept asking people for advice, like 'What do I do? What do I do?' But once anyone tried to talk to him or tried to even talk him out of what was going on, he just said, 'Don't talk to me.'"
Natalii Reyes was celebrating her ninth birthday and had just blown out the candles on the birthday cake.
"They said, 'Everybody with kids, go,'" she said.
The suspect held at least four people hostage for about an hour.
Hostages say the suspect repeatedly told them he didn't want to hurt anyone. But he also said he'd use his weapon if he had to.
"It made me feel like I had no control," said witness Madeline Bastidas. "I think that's what scared me the most."
Deputies say they saw him through a window waving a gun and acting erratically. He was shot once, and then the SWAT team moved in.
"If they didn't shoot the suspect, someone else is going to die," said Cmdr. Mike Park of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
A flash-bang grenade was thrown inside the restaurant, and the SWAT team stormed in. Though the suspect had been shot, he allegedly crawled on the ground and reached for his weapon. Shots were fired again, and the suspect was killed.
"We just feel blessed really because we feel God touched his heart," said Maggie Palacios. He kept saying sorry, so he was apologizing. He says, 'I have kids at home.'"
Witnesses say the suspect was asking for drugs or medication. Deputies have not said whether they believe the suspect was under the influence at the time.
Records show Tapia has prior convictions for grand theft, driving without a license, evading a police officer and drugs.
Hostages speak out following Chris & Pitts standoff with chase suspect in SoCal
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