With the rain pounding outside, Sandy John told his wife and young daughter to wait at the Lakewood Center Mall entrance while he went for the car.
He never returned.
John, 49, of Las Vegas was gunned down Friday in the mall's parking lot after refusing to turn over his car keys to two men, who later abandoned his black 1987 Cadillac Coupe de Ville nearby, stealing only its tires.
"He gave up his life for his rims," sheriff's Detective Jerry Jansen said Saturday as authorities searched for the killers.
The shooting was the latest example of the random and often brutal crime that, in recent years, has plagued Southern California shopping centers as surely as the streets--from last year's string of "mall murders" at San Gabriel Valley malls to last month's gang shootout in a West Covina plaza.
"It's not the same as it used to be, that's for sure," David Gohman said Saturday afternoon at the Lakewood Mall--the county's oldest and one of its largest.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 23, 1992 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 6 Metro Desk 2 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Phone number--The Times on Sunday published an incorrect area code in a telephone number for the Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide bureau. The correct number is (213) 974-4341. Anyone with information on the shooting death of Sandy John of Las Vegas, who was killed in the parking lot of the Lakewood Center Mall on Friday, is being asked to call.
Gohman, 28, is the owner of C & L Coins, a Lakewood mall tenant since 1978. And in recent years, he said, he has been increasingly hurt, both personally and professionally, by the crime that once seemed so rare at the 170-acre center, built in 1951.
"One of my jewelry cases was tagged (with graffiti) by gang members. . . . I was burglarized last year," Gohman said. And in the last two years, he added, his car has been burglarized three times in the mall parking lot, a radio stolen each time.
"I've been parking in that lot since I was old enough to drive," he said, exasperated by what he described as a relentless escalation of crime at the center.
That trend Friday night claimed the life of John, a former Lakewood resident who apparently was considering a move back to this area with his family, Jansen said.
According to the detective, John left his wife and daughter at the mall's entrance just before 8 p.m. to get their car from the parking lot.
When he reached the Cadillac, Jansen said, John was approached by two men who demanded his car keys. When he refused, one of the men shot John in the head, Jansen said.
John's wife and daughter learned of the incident after hearing a shot and seeing a crowd gather in the parking lot, Jansen said.
Before dying at Doctors Hospital in Lakewood about 11:15 p.m., John was able to provide detectives with information on the incident and a description of his killers.
The stolen car was recovered at 7:51 a.m. Saturday on a service road at Gunderson and Rosecrans avenues, about two miles from the shooting. All that was missing were its wheels.
Jansen urged anyone with information about the shooting to call the sheriff's homicide bureau at (310) 974-4341.
He also offered a cautionary word to others confronted by robbers. "Give them what they want. It's not worth it," Jansen said. "You never know what you're dealing with."