Suspect shot dead as Los Angeles police storm diner and free hostages
Los Angeles County Sheriff S.W.A.T. team are seen at the scene of an armed hostage standoff in Downey, California September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr.

An armed man holding several hostages in a Los Angeles restaurant was shot dead on Thursday night as police stormed the building to free the hostages, police said, though it was not clear whether an officer fired the fatal bullet.

Several shots were fired when the heavily armed officers stormed the barbecue restaurant in Downey, southeast of Los Angeles, to end the two-hour siege, said commander Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators will determine whether the gunman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was killed by a police bullet or his own weapon, he said.

Police said the unidentified suspect had stolen two cars, one of them at gunpoint. He led officers on a winding chase through Los Angeles, narrowly missing a cyclist and crashing into another car before running into the restaurant firing his gun.

"He had absolutely no concern for the safety of the public," Parker told reporters.

Dozens of people were able to escape from the restaurant, which was in the middle of a busy dinner rush, authorities said. Local media said about a half-dozen people had been taken hostage.