One of two suspects in an alleged armed robbery at a 7-Eleven store in Gardena was shot by a police officer while attempting to flee early Sunday morning. The other suspect was arrested.

Gardena patrol officers, responding to a 911 call from a witness, arrived to see two men fleeing the store at Vermont Avenue near 168th Street around 3:45 a.m.

The men had run across Vermont Avenue toward a residential neighborhood, and officers confronted them in the 800 block of 168th Street. When the suspects - allegedly armed with a knife and possibly a hammer - refused to surrender, the officers opened fire.

The wounded man was taken to a local hospital, where he is in stable condition and expected to survive.

Police did not release the name of either suspect.

The robbery-homicide division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating the shooting, and as of late Sunday morning many streets in the area were still taped off.

It appears the men may have been on a beer run. By midmorning, two full cases of Tecate beer lay in the middle of the taped-off parking lot of the convenience store. The parking lot was otherwise empty.

Among the bystanders was a 21-year-old man who said he feared the wounded man is his brother.

"I know my brother was here around that time," said Eric Davalos of Gardena, who identified his brother as Luis Gutierrez, also 21.


Advertisement

At one point, a detective walking by the small crowd mentioned that at least one of the suspects might be a member of a gang. Davalos strenuously objected.

"They're saying he's a G-13 gang member - he's not a gang member," he told a small group of reporters. "The cops around here think everybody's a gang member."

Another bystander at the scene said he and his family were awakened by five gunshots. Alex Vieyra, 48, said they watched from behind a fence as officers apprehended the injured man, maybe five feet away.

"We were just listening to the officers say: `Stay down, show us your hands. Don't move, stay down, show us your hands,"' he said.

Vieyra said an ambulance arrived about half an hour after the man was apprehended.

"They picked him up and put him on the gurney - all he had on was boxers," he said. "So I looked in the yard and all I could see is clothes and candies. Like, lots of candies - I don't know where the candy came from. And they took him away. He was yelling `I'm dying, I'm, dying."'

Vieyra said the suspect had no tattoos and that his hair was cropped close.

"He didn't look like a gang member," he said. "But that doesn't mean that he didn't do something wrong, either."

Vieyra said that, unfortunately, the incident is par for the course in the neighborhood.

"There's always gunshots," he said. "At least every night. At least in this area. Because there is problems in this area. So it comes with the territory."

There are many children in the neighborhood, he added.

"Bullets - they'll go through anything and they'll hit anyone," he said.

rob.kuznia@dailybreeze.com

Follow Rob Kuznia on Twitter at http://twitter.com/robkuznia