In a crisis, look for the helpers.

On Saturday afternoon, the crisis was a hostage situation in a Trader Joe’s store in Los Angeles. The helper was Sean Gerace.

Police say a man identified as Gene Evin Atkins, 28, shot his grandmother at least seven times, injured another woman and dragged her into his grandmother’s car to escape. A police pursuit led Atkins to the grocery as he exchanged gunfire.

Atkins barricaded himself inside the store, with some of the 40 to 50 people inside, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some fled out exits. Others hid.

Gerace, who works at the store, devised a plan.

“I was working in the backroom, heard screaming and gunfire, ran upstairs, grabbed a couple co-workers, made my way into a back section of the storage area upstairs,” Gerace told CBS affiliate KCAL. “I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window, and just tried to get the attention of a SWAT officer.”

A video of Gerace’s actions was a brief glimpse of humanity during the three-hour hostage situation: The ladder buckles and sways as he nears the bottom. The gunman could have been anywhere, but Gerace stays and steadies the ladder for at least two women who came after him.

Gerace could not be reached for comment by The Washington Post.

Melyda Corado, a store manager, was killed, authorities told the L.A. Times. It is not clear if she was killed by gunfire from Atkins or the police.

Atkins has been arrested and charged with murder, according to LAPD officer and spokesman Drake Maddison. Bail has been set at $2 million.

Atkins’s grandmother was in critical condition at a hospital, the L.A. Times reported.

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