Police are hunting gunmen who fired at a crowd of revellers at a southern California roller rink early on New Year’s Day, killing a security guard and wounding two other men.
The attack happened shortly before 2am in the parking lot at Cal Skate in Grand Terrace, between Riverside and San Bernardino, where about 200 people, including children, were attending an all-night party to celebrate the new year.
Richard Williamson, 48, a guard who owned the company providing security for the event, reportedly returned fire. He was hit and taken to a nearby hospital where he died.
“I woke up, to my amazement, and saw muzzle flashes, coming from both sides of the parking lot,” Michael Marcoly, a driver who was sitting in his big-rig in the parking lot when the gunfire broke out, told KNBC-TV.
“I saw people scattering. It’s really hard for me to say, but I saw the security officer go down, and he died a hero. He saved a bunch of kids and families, no doubt in my mind.”
Marcoly thought the melee was part of the event before he realised live rounds were being fired at the crowd.
“At first, I thought it was just people celebrating the new year, firing guns,” he said. “Then, when it hit my truck, it rocked my truck.”
Two other men, including a guard employed by Williamson, were wounded. The men were ages 22 and 28; one was treated at the scene and the other was taken to a hospital. Their names were not released.
The San Bernardino County sheriff’s office said in a statement no arrests had been made: “The suspects remain outstanding and investigators are asking anyone who may have witnessed the shooting to contact investigators.”
The skating rink said in a statement it was working with investigators. “Our prayers are with the officer and who was involved and those who witnessed this tragic event,” the statement said.
Williamson owned Big Will’s Security Services, a Riverside-based firm which provided the guards for the party.
Tributes posted on Facebook said he had a big heart and worked hard.
“He was just a very cool guy [who] had a big personality,” said Ray Dillick, who worked at the Riverside Indoor Shooting Range. “Always talking with us at the range and would tell us to stay safe.”