Two people were killed and three were wounded in pre-dawn shootings Monday at four 7-Eleven stores in Southern California, authorities said. At least three of the four shootings are believed to be linked to the same gunman.
The shootings appear to have occurred after predawn robberies or attempted robberies at the four convenience stores on July 11, or 7/11 — a day when the national 7-Eleven brand was celebrating its 95th birthday by giving out free Slurpee drinks.
“Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones,” 7-Eleven, Inc. said in a statement. “We are gathering information on this terrible tragedy and working with local law enforcement.”
It wasn’t immediately clear to investigators what prompted the shootings in the cities of Riverside, Santa Ana, Brea and La Habra, or why the violence occurred on July 11.
“I think the only person to answer that would be the suspect,” said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department, where the first shooting happened at about 1:50 a.m. Riverside is located about 85 kilometres east of Los Angeles.
“There’s no way it can be a coincidence of it being 7-Eleven, July 11,” he said.
The Riverside shooting — where the victim was in grave condition — has not yet been officially connected to the others, Railsback said, although he noted that “they all seem very, very similar.”
In the Riverside case, he said the gunman robbed the clerk and brandished a gun, then turned the weapon on a customer, opened fire and fled.
“It doesn’t appear to be any reason that the suspect shot the customer,” Railsback said. “It sounds like the clerk gave him whatever he asked for.”
Man dead in parking lot in 2nd shooting
The second shooting occurred at around 3:20 a.m., about 63 kilometres away in Santa Ana, authorities said.
Officers responding to reported gunshots at the 7-Eleven in that city and found a man dead in the parking lot with one bullet in his upper torso, according to Sgt. Maria Lopez, a Santa Ana police spokesperson. The violence appeared to include an attempted robbery.
“At this moment, we don’t believe he was an employee,” Lopez said of the victim there. “We don’t really know yet what he was doing there in a parking lot, if he was a potential customer or just walking by.”
Lopez said detectives believe the suspect in the Santa Ana killing is the same person who then travelled approximately 19 kilometres to Brea, where a 7-Eleven employee was found dead of a gunshot wound at about 4:18 a.m.