Police officers Friday arrested two suspects in connection with the wave of armed robberies at 7-Eleven stores that killed two people and injured three others.
Police were initially looking for a lone gunman who unleashed the five-hour wave of violence in the early hours of July 11, on the same day the supermarket company celebrated its 95th anniversary, but have now identified multiple people in connection with the crime series arrested. They are expected to provide more information on the arrests and the status of the investigation on Friday evening.
The attacks forced the brand’s parent company to urge stores in the Los Angeles area to close Monday night, following earlier attacks in the cities of Ontario, Upland, Riverside, Santa Ana, Brea and La Habra.
Authorities say Matthew Rule, 24, was killed in the Santa Ana attack and Matthew Hirsch, 40, died in Brea.
Investigators in La Habra, Brea and Santa Ana say they believe they are looking for the same suspect, while officers in Ontario, Upland and Riverside have not officially connected their attacks.
It is still unclear what triggered the violence.
“I think the only person who could answer that would be the suspect,” said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department Associated Press.
Officer Railsback told the AP that investigators believed the date of the attacks was no coincidence.
“It can’t be a coincidence that July 11th is 7-Eleven,” he said.
Brea and Upland Police have released a surveillance image of a masked man who appears to be wearing the same black sweatshirt with a hood pulled over his head.
“It could potentially be the same person, but we’re not confirming that at this time,” Upland Sgt. Jake Kirk told the Associated Press.
Officials say the first robbery took place around 12:00 a.m. Monday morning in Ontario, California, about thirty minutes east of Los Angeles.
A masked man drew a pistol and demanded money from the employee, who was not injured and no shots were fired.
The second robbery occurred about 45 minutes later in Upland, five miles from Ontario. The gunman again brandished a gun and stole drinks and up to $500 in cash, but again, no shots were fired or anyone injured.
An hour later, a gunman in Riverside, 25 miles from Upland, pulled out a gun and robbed the store before shooting dead a customer. This customer remains in a serious condition.
“There appears to be no reason the suspect shot the customer,” Officer Railsback told the outlet. “It sounds like the clerk gave him everything he asked for.”
A shooting erupted around 3:20 a.m. in Santa Ana, about 24 miles away, and when police arrived at the scene, they found a victim with a fatal gunshot wound to the torso in the parking lot in front of the store.
Then, 40 minutes later, a gunman shot dead a clerk at a shop in Brea, according to police.
An hour later, police in La Habra responded to a store robbery in which two victims were shot, but both were in stable condition.
Less than an hour after Matthew Hirsch was shot, officers were dispatched to neighboring La Habra on a reported robbery of a 7-Eleven. They discovered two gunshot victims at around 4:55 a.m., according to Sgt. Sumner Bohee. Both were in stable condition on Monday.
In a statement to multiple news outlets, 7-Eleven Inc. said it was cooperating with police following the shootings.
“Our hearts are with the victims and their families,” the company said.
“Right now our focus is on the safety of franchisees, employees and customers. With that in mind, we have encouraged businesses in the Los Angeles area to close (Monday night).”