LOS ANGELES (AP) — A botched armored car robbery in front of a Costco store left one customer dead and three others wounded as two gunmen, one wielding an AK-47 assault rifle, sprayed bullets into a crowd of shoppers.
"It all happened really fast. It was loud," customer Carlos Barboza said. "I saw one guy carrying a machine gun, and he was turning around shooting at people left and right."
One wounded suspect was arrested just a few blocks from the crime scene, but police could not find a second suspect by late Sunday night despite a search involving SWAT and canine units.
A 29-year-old man headed into the warehouse store suffered a gunshot wound to the head and later died at Valley Presbyterian Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A female shopper was struck in the stomach and leg and was listed in critical condition after undergoing surgery at Holy Cross Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
At least four other people were treated at nearby hospitals for non-gunshot injuries.
Police say the sheer number of law enforcement officials on duty for the Democratic National Convention about 20 miles south actually helped capture one of the suspects. Despite devoting 2,000 of the department's 9,000 officers to the downtown convention, every division still has officers working 12-hour shifts.
"We actually have more resources," said Sgt. John Pasquariello. "It was not an issue of underdeployment. There are usually 10 to 13 vehicles compared to 33 cars tonight."
Still, the heist took police and customers by surprise on the store's busiest day of the week because there have been few armored car robberies in recent memory, Pasquariello said.
The shooting in broad daylight left witnesses rattled.
"My son saw it. He said, 'Dad, he's got a gun,' " said Barboza, walking away with his 3-year-old son in hand. "We're going to take him to counseling. He's really traumatized."
The shooting began about 3 p.m., shortly after an armored car pulled up to the entrance of the San Fernando Valley store.
An armored car guard who had gone inside to retrieve money was exiting Costco when he was approached by a man armed with an AK-47 who demanded the cash. Gunfire erupted between the man and the guard, but police have not determined who fired first, Lt. Jim Grayson said.
A second gunman who was among the crowd in a food court immediately outside the store also began shooting as the guard raced into the armored car for protection. The guard held onto the bag of money and was not wounded, police said.
"They were shooting as fast as they can," said Chris Forbess, a mechanic at a nearby Pep Boys store.
The two gunmen then fled empty-handed in a white van as panic spread through the crowd. Within minutes, an off-duty officer spotted a man carrying an AK-47 rifle several blocks from the store and called for help.
The man surrendered to police in a residential area and was taken to an area hospital for a shot in the leg. He was shot in the leg either mistakenly by the other gunman or by an armored car guard, police said.
The gunmen apparently had ditched the van because of a flat tire, Pasquariello said. After combing the area for several hours, police called off the search for the second gunman at 8:20 p.m. Sunday.