Tamworth singer/songwriter suffers 'terrifying' ordeal as gunshots interrupt US meeting
A Staffordshire teenager was left "extremely scared" after gunshots interrupted a meeting she was having at a Los Angeles coffee shop which left her and other customers running for cover.
Tamworth singer-songwriter Matilda Pratt, aged 17, was in LA this month performing, writing music and recording and agreed to meet a management executive to discuss future opportunities.
On August 16, she was originally meant to meet them in West Hollywood, but that got changed in the morning to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee shop on Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica.
"Someone who saw me perform out there wanted to have a meeting with me before I left about further opportunities," she said. "But when I met with him, gunshots were fired a couple of stores down from where we were."
Matilda had been excited to visit the site as starting that day the shop was hosting a pop-up event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of hit US sitcom Friends.
The Los Angeles Times reported that a Brinks security van guard fired three rounds at a man at about 11.15am after the man approached him with a knife. According to police, the man was not struck by the gunfire and ran from the area with a bag of money. He was taken into custody in a "parking structure" on the same street about an hour later. Authorities also found a knife and the cash, Santa Monica police Lt. Candice Cobarrubias told reporters.
"Everyone was running and screaming and we had to go inside the coffee shop and crouch down low until it was safe to get a police escort out as far away as possible. It was extremely scary and it’s certainly a meeting I will never forget," the A-level student continued.
"It was holding a special Friends celebration complete with the famous orange sofa and was decorated as the Central Perk coffee shop from the show. You could have your photo taken on it and I was really excited as I'm a massive Friends fan.
"We met the music manager and sat chatting outside for about 10 minutes when three loud gunshots went off a few yards away. Everyone started screaming and running inside the shops so we did too.
"We were told to crouch down and everyone was crying and hugging each other, it was really, really scary. We didn't know at this point if it was a shooter or not so it was a really terrifying time."
Eventually, the emergency services arrived to rescue those hiding in the coffee shop.
"About 15 minutes later, police came to the coffee shop and escorted us off the promenade, but the offender hadn't been found yet. Our contact led us away from the area and we stayed away until we heard news that the offender had been caught.
"Once we found this out I returned to my hotel, but this wasn't until an hour or so later. I just felt immense relief that no-one had been hurt. The Promenade was cordoned off for most of the day after that."
Despite her terrifying ordeal, Matilda - who this week appears in The Star's Unsigned musician column - says she wouldn't be put off returning to the city to perform in future.
"It wouldn't put me off going back to LA as it's such an amazing place and I absolutely love everything about it," she admits.
"Finding out the circumstances of the incident later on also made me feel better that it hadn't been a 'shooter', but it definitely did remind me of the difference between our two countries and that guns are part of their culture.
"The incident has made me appreciate the fear people go through when they are faced with these situations and I will definitely feel more understanding when I hear of these stories in the future."
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