Some Southern California 7-Eleven stores closed overnight after a string of shootings and robberies at stores in Orange and Riverside counties left two people dead and three wounded.
The pre-dawn robberies were reported in a timespan of about five hours on Monday July 11, or 7-11, the date that the convenience store chain celebrates its anniversary. Police are seeking one man captured on security camera video in at least two of the crimes.
“There’s no way it can be a coincidence of it being 7-Eleven, July 11,” said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department.
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Corporate headquarters encouraged 7-Eleven stores in the region to close overnight. 7-Eleven Inc. issued a statement saying it was gathering information and working with police.
“Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones,” the statement said.
In Brea, notes and candles were left at a memorial for a store clerk who was shot and killed during a robbery.
"I know these guys. They're just making a living," said resident Balinder Kooner, who stopped by to pay his respects. "They got killed for no reason."
Railsback noted that criminals usually understand convenience stores robberies rarely yield large amounts of money, especially during overnight hours.
“If you go hit a liquor store or a 7-Eleven or a fast food place, you’re not going to get a lot of cash out of it,” he said. “It’s kind of odd that they would do this.”
No arrests were reported.
Timeline of Robberies, Shootings at SoCal 7-Eleven Stores
Police in La Habra and Brea said Monday they believe they are seeking the same person. On Tuesday, Riverside police confirmed the man sought in the Riverside case also appears connected to the crimes in La Habra and Brea.
Officials in the other communities have not yet made the same determination, but said they are aware of the other crimes at 7-Eleven stores.
Midnight, Ontario: The first robbery was reported about midnight in Ontario. A masked man brandished a handgun at a store employee and demanded money, according to Ontario police. No shots were fired. No injuries were reported. It was not immediately clear whether anything was stolen.
Just Before 2 a.m., Tuesday, Upland: The second robbery was reported in Upland, about 5 miles form the Ontario store. Someone approached a store clerk with merchandise, then displayed a semi-automatic handgun, police said. The man took about $400 to $500 in cash and fled. No shots were fired.
3 a.m., Tuesday, Riverside: About an hour after the Upland robbery and 25 miles away, a gunman shot a customer at a Riverside 7-Eleven. Police said they believe the clerk handed over cash from the register. The shooting victim was in grave condition.
“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.”
3:20 a.m., Tuesday, Santa Ana: About 25 miles from Riverside, another shooting was reported in the parking lot of a Santa Ana store. Officers found the body of a man, identified as 24-year-olde Matthew Rule, of Santa Ana, in the parking lot with a gunshot wound to the upper body.
“At this moment, we don’t believe he was an employee,” said Santa Ana Sgt. Maria Lopez. “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.”
Security camera video shows the shooter dropping items, possibly belonging to the victim as he fled, Lopez said.
4 a.m., Tuesday, Brea: A 7-Eleven employee was shot and killed in the northern Orange County community of Brea. The clerk was identified as 40-year-old Matthew Hirsch who died at the scene, police said.
Before 5 a.m., Tuesday, La Habra: Officers in nearby La Habra responded to a reported robbery at a 7-Eleven and discovered two gunshot victims. Authorities have not disclosed the victims’ conditions.
Security camera photos released by Upland and Brea police show a masked man wearing a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head. The sweatshirt had white lettering with green leaves on the front.