Police released surveillance photos Saturday of two suspects wanted in the shooting death of a 36-year-old Rite Aid employee in Glassell Park who was killed while confronting the alleged shoplifters.
Officers responded at 8:51 p.m. Thursday to 4044 Eagle Rock Blvd., near Verdugo Road and the Glendale (2) Freeway, and found a man suffering from gunshot wounds, according to Officer William Cooper of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Police said the two suspects entered the Rite Aid and walked directly to the beer display and took a case of beer each. Employee Miguel Penaloza confronted the suspects as they attempted to flee without paying. A brief struggle occurred and one of the suspects pulled out a handgun and shot Penaloza.
The suspects, both 18 to 20 years-old, fled through the parking lot in an unknown direction. One was described as 5-feet-6 inches tall and about 200 pounds, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, black shorts, and black shoes with white trim. The second suspect was described as 5-feet-8 inches tall and about 145 pounds, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a large square print on the back, tan or grey pants, and black shoes.
LAPD Central Bureau homicide detectives urged anyone with information regarding the robbery to call them at 213-996-4180 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Penaloza was pronounced dead at the scene. Friends and family held an emotional vigil for him Friday.
“I was the closing supervisor and we always had people coming in — stealing liquor and beer, beer runs and, unfortunately, at times there was only two of us,” David Cruz told ABC7.
Cruz told KTLA5 that Penaloza had just submitted his notice of resignation.
Meanwhile, the Rite Aid was closed Saturday and expected to stay closed until at least Monday as employees mourned their colleague.
“The workers are experienced a lot of trauma related to this incident,” Kathy Finn, UFCW 770 secretary-treasurer, told City News Service. She added that the employees are receiving grief counseling.
The union is accusing Rite Aid of failing to provide adequate security for employees at its stores.
“No one should have to fear for their lives while they shop or work in a retail store. Rite Aid has refused, in store after store, to provide adequate professional security for its employees. Even after death threats and a police investigation took place in this store, the company placed profit over safety and refused security for its employees,” according to the UFCW 770 statement issued Friday.
Rite Aid’s corporate office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Finn said the company told workers that more security would be added at the Glassell Park store in the future, but she lamented that it was too late to bring Penaloza back.
Finn said union members who work at Rite Aid and similar stores are reporting more violent incidents and fear and insecurity about being at work over the last year or two.
“I think drug stores in general, over time, have become targets because they have limited staff and security on duty,” she told CNS.