Security Guard Kills Suspect During Store Burglary

April 5, 2011

Perhaps the inevitable outcome of an on-going series of burglaries at Apple’s retail stores in the U.S., an armed security guard for the Otay Ranch (S. Calif.) store shot and killed one of two men who smashed the front door Monday morning, came inside and began shooting at the guard and a store manager. Two suspects fled the scene but were captured in a nearby neighborhood after an extensive search. Neither the security guard or store manager was injured. It was the third burglary at the Otay Ranch Apple store, according to Chula Vista police, and among at least 14 Apple store burglaries over the past three years. It was the first time a store burglary resulted in gunfire or a suspect fatality, although a Virginia Apple store employee was shot and wounded during a 2009 robbery attempt.

Police say security guard Jose Jimenez, 58, was inside the store with a store manager at about 6:45 a.m. before the store opened. Jimenez is a former sheriff’s deputy, and now works for Security Industry Associates, a southern California security firm with a wide-ranging contract to provide services for Apple Retail. Police did not identify the Apple store manager.

Police did not say why the manager was at the store at that hour, or specifically why the security guard was armed. Like other companies, Apple does not discuss security arrangements for its stores, including the presence of security guards when the stores are closed.

According to videos from the store’s surveillance system, the two male suspects entered the store after smashing the door glass, and one immediately pulled a handgun and began shooting. Jimenez returned fire, police said, and the suspects retreated outside, still shooting as they ran to their getaway car in the parking lot. About 40 shots were fired in all, police said.

Police emphasized that Jimenez fired in defense of life, which is permitted by California law, and not while defending Apple’s property. The San Diego County district attorney’s office will investigate the case, police said, to determine if the shooting was justified.

The suspects’ car sped off, but crashed into a light pole while still in the shopping center parking lot. One of the men and the woman fled into a nearby neighborhood, leaving behind a male suspect who police found dead in the driver’s seat. Police cordoned off the neighborhood and locked down nearby schools during a multi-agency search. After two hours, police found the two suspects in an apartment complex and arrested them without incident. The male suspect was injured in the auto crash, police said, and was taken to a hospital. Police recovered handguns from both men, but it’s not clear if both had fired at the security guard.

Police said the dead suspect suffered a gunshot wound to the head, likely while the suspect was driving the car, which caused the crash.

The eastern section of the mall was closed until about 5 p.m., and the Apple store itself did not open on Monday.

The Otay Ranch store has been burglarized twice before, police confirmed. Investigators are trying to determine if the suspects in this case are related to the prior burglaries, or to a University Town Center (San Diego) store burglary last November.

At least 12 other stores around the country have been burglarized, most since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, a smaller device that can be easily carried away and concealed. At least three Apple stores have been burglarized more than once. The burglaries also seem to be prompted by the constrained supply of products, including the iPhone 4 and both models of iPad, which has pushed up the asking price of the products in secondary markets such as eBay, and in illicit channels created by thieves.

During a nighttime burglary at the Sagemore (NJ) store in September 2009, five men smashed the front doors and confronted an unarmed security guard inside at 2 a.m. The suspects simulated weapons and took several display products during their 31-second attack. The security guard fled and did not intervene. It was the second burglary for the Sagemore store. (video)

The Clarendon (Virg.) retail store was robbed in July 2009 by a suspect who barged through a rear service door during working hours when an employee opened it in response to a doorbell. The suspect ordered the employee back into the store at gunpoint, and within seconds shot and wounded another employee, then fled with no merchandise. The suspect is still at large.

Read a news account of the burglary and shoot-out, and watch this TV news report.

Update: Four hours before this incident, burglars smashed the glass door at the Main Place (Ill.) retail store, the location’s third break-in. Five suspects ran inside and stole $30,000 worth of products within 60 seconds, police said. No security guard was on-duty, and police were alerted by an alarm company.

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