Three people were shot and six others wounded by flying glass fragments Tuesday morning when a former Universal Studios employee sprayed the MCA headquarters tower at 3900 Lankershim Blvd. with about 20 rounds from a high-powered rifle before surrendering peacefully, police said. None of the injuries are considered life-threatening.
The suspect, identified by North Hollywood police as 58-year-old John Brian Jarvis of Pleasanton, reportedly told officers that the shooting was related to a past employment dispute there.
Jim Yeager, director of public relations for Universal Studios Hollywood, said only that Jarvis was a full-time studio transportation driver until he was laid off in 1982. He then worked part-time until 1986. No other details about Jarvis or his employment history at MCA were available Tuesday.
MCA has been the target of other violence in the past. A mentally ill man shot and killed two studio security guards in 1988 (see related story).
The Robbery and Homicide Division at Parker Center said Jarvis was charged with attempted murder and that other felony charges might follow. Jarvis is likely to be arraigned Thursday before a judge in Van Nuys, police said.
According to eyewitnesses, at 10:15 a.m. Jarvis calmly took up position on Bluffside Drive, near a grassy knoll by the parking lot across Lankershim from the black tower. He fired what is believed to be a single-shot caliber 280 bolt-action hunting rifle into the building in between swigs from what observers said looked like a whiskey bottle.
Several floors were hit in what one officer described as a random shooting pattern. Bullets flew through windows from the fourth through the 16th floors, with the heaviest concentration around the seventh. “It did a lot of damage upstairs,” said LAPD Sgt. John Stilo. A Universal employee who asked not to be identified said the seventh floor panes had bullet holes the size of golf balls. She said one round went through a filing cabinet and three interior walls before exiting the building on the other side.
Worst hit was 41-year-old Dixie Tung, an executive secretary, who was struck once in the shoulder, according to Brian Jordan of the L.A. County Fire Dept. She was in stable condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Also, the Associated Press reported that Diana Maitland, 49, was taken to County-USC Medical Center for minor eye and leg injuries and that 41-year-old Sandra Russell was treated for a cut on her head.
Other injured persons were sent to County-USC and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The tower was shut down following the shooting. Employees were sent home while police looked for other victims and collecting evidence. The Universal Studios tour continued uninterrupted, but at least some film and TV production on the lot was temporarily shut down.
An unnamed MCA source told the AP that MCA chairman Lew Wasserman was inside the building throughout the incident, but that he was unharmed. Prexy Sidney J. Sheinberg was reported to be in another part of town.
After the first shot, some MCA employees thought the gunman was inside the tower.
“There was an unbelievably loud explosion, and we all thought someone was walking around with a gun,” said Eric Jessen, a feature production executive assistant who works on the 10th floor. “But then the bullets started flying, and everybody got under their desks.” Jessen counted seven bullets through the window.
One employee reportedly bent over to check an electrical outlet as the first volley came through the black glass panes. Said Jessen, “The guy was real lucky, because at least five bullets went over his head right after he ducked.”
There were other close calls.
Paula Jennings, a secretary for John Goldhammer, senior VP of development for MCA Television, told fellow employees that she ran from her desk when she heard the first of several bullets enter the exec’s upper floor office. A slug reportedly was later found lodged in her chair.
Employees said that Stephen Lew, senior VP of the MCA Recreation Services Group, felt a bullet whiz by him. He thought he had been shot, but escaped injury.
Ken Arber, senior VP of current programs for MCA Television, was standing in front of a window talking on the phone when the firstof four bullets entered his office. He dove to the floor. Two large bullet holes were later found in the window where he stood.
A persistent but apparently false rumor that a second gunman was hiding on the ninth floor sent people scrambling for the elevators instead of the stairs. Groups of employees stayed in the lobby for half an hour before being sent home.
In the producers building next door, employees reportedly tried to put calls through to 911 while staying out of Jarvis’ sight, but got only a busy signal. When they finally reached the Sheriff’s Dept., they were put on hold twice. “We told them there was a shooting, and we felt very powerless,” said an exasperated Scott Tallman, a publicity rep at MCA Television Entertainment. “This entire thing went on for at least 10 minutes.”
Across the production lot, employees heard some noise but dismissed it as harmless special effects.
“We thought it was coming from ‘Quantum Leap’ right down below us,” said Janet Wade, who was in the MCA music department behind Stage 12 when she heard shots. “We thought it was firecrackers or something.”
I.R.S. Records employee Beverly Swan had a close view of Jarvis from the company’s office just a few feet away from where the suspect was shooting. Swan said Jarvis acted eerily casual, taking his time to reload and aim.
“He just kept looking up and shooting, like it was something he does every day,” Swan said. “He looked like a normal guy, with dark hair and a T-shirt. He kept shooting as the cops were coming at him.”
According to Swan, a pedestrian passed right by the gunman. “There was no panic in the street,” she said. “Somebody even walked right past him.”
Arresting officers Jerry Theaker and Julius Stewart of the LAPD responded to a radio call and approached the suspect around 10.30 a.m. Jarvis quickly complied when told to surrender and put down his weapon, police said.
Around noon, LAPD and local Sheriff’s Dept. officers had the area secured, and a swarm of helicopters stopped circling. In the near distance, the activity at Universal Studios Tour continued, tram-riding tourists oblivious to the gunplay below.
“You think you’re pretty safe in the building,” said an employee who would not be identified. He looked up at the bright black monolith now riddled with little white bullet holes, then added, “Well, you’re not.”