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Authorities identify Koreatown carjack suspect

February 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It was a stunning scene at a Koreatown gas station when police opened fire on a carjacking suspect at the end of a pursuit, killing him in front of shocked witnesses.

The suspect, identified as 22-year-old Shonchy Thaopraseuth of San Bernardino, was eastbound on Wilshire Boulevard when he turned into the entrance of a gas station on Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.

Surveillance video from the Shell gas station shows station owner Harry Hahn walking to put gas in his car just as Thaopraseuth, trailed by police, pulled in a few feet away.

Hahn said he saw the suspect with a gun in his right hand, and he thought the suspect might shoot him. He ducked for cover, and then heard dozens of shots fired.

A police officer moved in to get Hahn out of the way.

Officers opened fire when Thaopraseuth allegedly pointed the gun at customers. Thaopraseuth was declared dead at the scene.

"The officers were trying to take him into custody, and obviously, we had plenty of officers there," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "At some point, we believe he pointed his gun at the individuals that were inside of the store."

Detectives said Thaopraseuth carjacked a woman in San Bernardino and drove it until it ran out of gas in El Sereno, where he carjacked a 65-year-old driver of a Saturn. Gas station manager Robert Calderon witnessed the second carjacking and called 911.

"The guy just pointed the gun at his head," Calderon said.

Police spotted the stolen Saturn and pursued Thaopraseuth. The slow-speed chase went through Hollywood for about an hour before it came to a deadly end in Koreatown. A handgun was recovered at the scene.

Hahn, who had his Bible on the front seat of his car during the whole ordeal, said he feels lucky to be alive.

"I'm going to pray every morning ... thank you very much God," he said.

A tow truck hauled away the bullet-riddled Saturn on Friday morning, finally reopening the busy intersection to traffic.

The two carjack victims were not injured in the incident.The fatal officer-involved shooting remains under investigation.