"The off-duty officer was eating when someone came in and tried to rob the restaurant," Jobling said. "When he tried to intervene, the suspect lunged toward him, causing him to open fire."
The robber, whose name was withheld pending notification of relatives, died at the scene, the sergeant said.
The robber, according to deputies, was armed with an 8-inch knife and had begun to walk two employees to the back of the restaurant. That's when the officer identified himself as such and ordered the suspects to stop.
"He took a very heroic action to stop a threat," said Lt. Gil Carillo, "and possibly saved at least two lives. He's still a police officer 24 hours a day."
"Right time, right place," said Bart Townsend, a frequent customer at this particular location who happened to come by when he heard the news, "Usually nothing happens at Norm's, it's an unfortunate thing."
The officer fired multiple times as the suspect tried to flee. He collapsed near the front door where he died. An accomplice of the fatally wounded man fled. Later, authorities detained a man nearby who they believe was that accomplice, Carrillo said.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
The Gardena Police Department says it hasn't decided if its officer will be on any kind of administrative leave pending further investigation. Meanwhile the LA County Sheriff's Department says it's interviewing more than a dozen eyewitnesses of the shooting, trying to figure out exactly how it all happened.