A man made his way into Los Angeles City Hall East, hid in the ceiling of a lunchroom and remained undiscovered for several hours before falling through the ceiling tiles, according to police.
It happened midafternoon Monday. The shirtless intruder took off and headed into the adjacent Los Angeles mall, where he was arrested by Los Angeles police officers, authorities said.
Police identified the man as Edward Letona, 42, of Las Vegas. He told investigators he was hot, had been in the building a full day, and was trying to hide from gang members. Police did not comment on the accuracy of Letona's statements.
Letona is not homeless, but has a job and owns a house, according to a man who identified himself as Letona's roommate. Speaking by phone, the roommate said Letona had driven to LA late last week to attend a wedding.
The sixth-floor lunchroom is in the City Attorney's section of the City Hall East building, which is located across Main Street and connected via skybridge to the main City Hall. There are security checkpoints at the public entrances to both buildings. It's not clear if the man went through security or had entered undetected.
"I had no idea someone was in there," said an employee who was in the lunchroom shortly before the man fell.
He landed atop two vending machines, which authorities said he may have used earlier to climb up to the ceiling. The ceiling panels, which rest on suspended metal rails, can be pushed up for access.
"It was scary, then funny to realize he was in there the whole time we were having lunch," said the employee, who asked not to be identified. She said she had noticed some deformation and damage to the ceiling, but assumed it occurred during repair work.
The fall, accompanied by crumbling fiberboard and a cloud of dust, was witnessed by a custodian, who summoned officers as the man departed the building.
The man was spotted buying a sweatshirt at the CVS Pharmacy in the underground Los Angeles Mall, and was wearing the sweatshirt when officers arrested him in the mall walkway, according to police.
Letona was booked into jail on suspicion of burglary. Tuesday the District Attorney declined to file the case as a felony, but Letona could still face prosecution for trespassing or another misdemeanor charge.