Two people were killed and three were injured in shootings that happened before dawn Monday at four 7-Eleven stores in Southern California, authorities said. At least three of the four shootings are said to involve the same shooter.
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 brand 7-Eleven celebrated its 95th anniversary by handing out free Slurpee drinks.
“Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones,” said 7-Eleven, Inc. in a statement. “We are collecting information about this terrible tragedy and working with the local police.”
It was not 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 who can answer that is the suspect,” said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department, where the first shooting happened at about 1:50 a.m. Riverside is about 85 miles east of Los Angeles.
“It can’t be a coincidence that it’s 7-Eleven, July 11,” he said.
The Riverside shooting — where the victim was in serious condition — has not yet been officially linked to the others, Railsback said, although he noted that “they are all very, very similar.”
In the Riverside case, he said the gunman robbed the clerk and brandished a pistol, then aimed the weapon at a customer, opened fire and fled.
“It doesn’t look like the suspect shot the customer,” Railsback said. “It sounds like the clerk gave him everything he asked for.”
Man dead in parking lot in second shooting
The second shooting happened around 3:20 a.m., about 63 kilometers away in Santa Ana, authorities said.
Officers responding to the report of gunfire to the 7-Eleven in that city found a man dead in the parking lot with one bullet to his torso, according to Sgt. Maria Lopez, a Santa Ana police spokesman. The violence turned out to be an attempted robbery.
“At this point, we don’t believe he was an employee,” Lopez said of the victim there. “We don’t really know yet what he was doing in a parking lot, whether he was a potential customer or just walking by.”
Lopez said detectives believe the suspect in the Santa Ana murder is the same individual who then traveled about 12 miles to Brea, where a 7-Eleven employee was found dead from a gunshot wound at about 4:18 a.m.