Police across Southern California are on a hunt for the lone gunman of the string of robberies in different 7-Eleven stores Tuesday. The incident killed 2 people and injured 3 others.
On July 11 or 7/11, the day the 7-Eleven brand celebrates its anniversary, violence occurred in different locations across California. The incident prompted the parent company to close all branches in the Los Angeles area for safety.
The motive behind the violence in Ontario, Upland, Riverside, Santa Ana, Brea, and La Habra is still unclear.
“I think the only person to answer that would be the suspect,” said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department.
Police identified the Santa Victim as Matthew Rule, 24, while the Brea victim was 40-year-old Matthew Hirsch.
According to the police, the Riverside victim is in grave condition as of Tuesday morning, while the La Habra shooting victims are in stable condition.
Police in La Habra, Brea, and Santa Ana believe they are seeking the same suspects.
Authorities in Brea and Upland shares images of a masked man wearing a black sweatshirt with a hood over his head. The sweatshirt has white lettering with green leaves on the front.
“It could potentially be the same person but we’re not confirming that at this time,” Upland Sgt. Jake Kirk said.
7-Eleven Inc. has issued a statement saying they are gathering information and working with the police.
“Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones,” the statement said.
“Right now, our focus is on Franchisee, associate and customer safety. With that in mind, we have encouraged stores in the Los Angeles area to close (Monday night),” 7-Eleven Inc. said in a statement to KABC.
Railsback said the date was no accident.
“There’s no way it can be a coincidence of it being 7-Eleven, July 11,” he said.
The first robbery happened around Monday midnight in Ontario, 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
According to Ontario Cpl. Emily Hernandez, the suspect wielded a handgun at the store’s employee and demanded money. There were no shots fired, and the clerk was unharmed. It is not clear to the investigators if anything was stolen.
The second robbery happened 45 minutes later in Upland, less than 5 miles from the Ontario store.
Kirk said that the suspect approached the store clerk with “some drinks and things,” and brandished a semi-automatic handgun. The man stole about $400 to $500 in cash and fled. No shots were fired.
An hour after the Upland robbery and 25 miles away in Riverside, a gunman wielded a gun and robbed the 7-Eleven clerk, turned the weapon to a customer, and opened fire. Police believe the clerk handed cash from the register.
“It doesn’t appear to be any reason that the suspect shot the customer,” Railsback said of the gravely wounded victim. “It sounds like the clerk gave him whatever he asked for.”
Railsback said criminals typically know that robberies at convenience stores rarely yield large amounts of money, especially during the 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.”
According to authorities, another shooting occurred at 3:20 a.m. in Santa Ana.
Officers responded to a reported gunfire and found a man dead in the 7-Eleven parking lot. According to Santa Ana Sgt. Maria Lopez, there was a gunshot wound to his upper torso.
“At this moment, we don’t believe he was an employee,” Lopez said of the victim. “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.”
CCTV cameras reveal the suspect dropping items believed to be the victim’s belongings and fled.
40 minutes later, a 7-Eleven employee in Brea was shot and killed.