PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The owner of a barber shop is shedding new light on the events leading up to an officer-involved shooting in Palm Springs that sent a suspect and injured Palm Springs police officer to the hospital Thursday afternoon.
Jeff Orozco, owner of Gentlemen's Barber Shop on Indian Canyon Drive, told News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia the man entered his store threatening him and shouting racist and homophobic slurs.
PSPD Lt. William Hutchinson told News Channel 3 officers were initially called to the area of of Ramon Road and Palm Canyon Drive after receiving reports of a fight near the Bank of America with four people against one man, who was reportedly carrying a knife and attempting to stab people.
Officers quickly arrived at the scene and as they tried to arrest the armed man, a struggle broke out, leading to him being shot by officers, according to Hutchinson.
"He knew that we were a bunch of Mexicans working for sure, so he came in here very disrespectful towards my race," Orozco said. "This guy was serious to commit a crime no matter who it was -- he was a dangerous guy. A dangerous, armed guy."
The confrontation resulted in the officer-involved shooting. According to PSPD, the man was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. The injured officer reportedly sustained minor injuries attempting to place the suspect under arrest.
"He wasn't just targeting Mexicans, in a way he was, but even the gay guys, the gay community he was calling them the 'f word' and all that and it's not cool. It's not cool to treat people like that," Orozco said.
Orozco said he defended his employees and customers.
"He came into my business, disrespecting my clientele, my community. I had to stop this guy," Orozco said. "We were outside and he went ahead and took a knife out on me but I didn't let that get to me. Luckily, the cops showed up real quick and he ran away."
Witnesses said the armed man left the barbershop and traveled down Indian Canyon, ending up at a construction site. Larry Bitonti, the owner of Hair of the Dog, witnessed the man's arrest.
"He was going nuts and for her to try and keep him down, I was very proud of the Palm Springs police officer. She did great," Bitonti said.
"I mean I saw the lady wrestle the guy and that's about it. I heard a gunshot," Orozco said.
Orozco says he's just lucky to be alive.
"It's just sad, man. I have a family, I have two kids and a wife and it could have been worse man. I could have been dead," Orozco said.
Authorities are still looking for witnesses. If you saw anything or have any video of the incident, contact the Palm Springs Police Department.
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