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Hostages freed on Santa Monica Pier

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A suspected accomplice in three gang killings shot and wounded four people early Tuesday, then held hostages on the Santa Monica Pier for several hours before surrendering, police said.

Several people were released unharmed after the standoff began, and the final hostages were rescued after five hours.

Three officers and a 17-year-old boy were wounded in the gunfire that preceded the hostage situation, but their injuries were not life-threatening, police Lt. Gary Gallinot said.

The incident started about 1:40 a.m., when the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office told Santa Monica police that a pair of men wanted in three homicide cases were on the pier, Gallinot said.

The Santa Monica Pier draws thousands of visitors during the summer with clubs, food stands and a small amusement park.

One suspect, 30-year-old Jose Flores, was taken into custody after a brief scuffle, and two weapons were found on him, Gallinot said.

A man with Flores, believed to be an accomplice in the slayings, attempted to escape, Gallinot said. The man, identified as 25-year-old Oswaldo Amezcua, ran toward the pier's Playland Arcade, turned and fired at officers who were chasing him, wounding three of them and a teenage boy, Gallinot said.

Amezcua, described by Gallinot as a "very hard-core gang member," then took "numerous hostages" inside the arcade, Gallinot said. A hostage negotiator was brought in and three children and a woman were released around 4 a.m., Gallinot said. The other hostages were freed over the next few hours.

Brittney Thompson, 15, was having her picture taken in an arcade booth when gunfire broke out. She said the gunman took her mother and younger brother hostage but later allowed her mother to phone a relative.

"He started shooting and I ducked down," Thompson said. "The police opened the door and I ran out. . . . I kicked off my shoes and ran."

Flores and Amezcua were wanted in gang-related homicide cases last month in Victorville, Baldwin Park and Ontario, according to Cindy Beavers of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.