STANTON, Calif. — Two armed men ambushed a Brinks armored vehicle in front of a Lucky supermarket Monday morning, fatally wounding a 39-year-old guard and escaping with an undisclosed amount of cash.
One of the robbers jumped from behind a store pillar about 11:40 a.m. and fired a semiautomatic handgun at Brinks guard Mark A. Smith, who was carrying a satchel of money from the store to the armored van, authorities said.
The two robbers fled from the parking lot in a car they later abandoned for a bluish-gray Taurus station wagon, said Lt. Ron Wilkerson of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Smith was taken by ambulance to Columbia West Anaheim Medical Center, where he died at 4:26 p.m. after two hours of emergency surgery to a wound to his neck, authorities said. His partner, whom authorities did not identify, was not injured.
"It appears the suspects were hiding, lying in wait, and ambushed the guards," Wilkerson said. On the other hand, he said, "this could be a crime of opportunity. We can't be sure right now."
The slain guard's widow, Dorie M. Smith, described her husband as a loyal and devoted family man who took pride in his work. The couple's 16th wedding anniversary was just two weeks away.
"It's just unimaginable that this happened," Dorie Smith said. "I feel terrible. I wish I had something profound to say. But I'm feeling so damned empty and lost. I just can't comprehend what happened."
No one else was injured in the shooting, Wilkerson said. Another bullet fired by the gunman hit an empty car in front of the store, in the 7000 block of Katella Avenue. It appeared that those were the only shots fired before the robbers fled south on Knott Avenue, he said.
Distraught Lucky employees who witnessed the shooting were sent home early by the store's managers.
Smith's co-workers at the security company grieved at the loss of their colleague, whom they described as easygoing, professional and humorous.
"I'm kind of numb right now," said one guard, who said he had worked with Smith for about a year.
"I guess you can do all you can to be prepared and be cautious, but if someone gets the drop on you, there's nothing you can do," said the man, who spoke only on condition that he not be identified.
Smith was no stranger to dangerous occupations, his widow said. In 1979, he moved to California from his hometown of Durante, Okla., to join the U.S. Marines. He later fought in Operation Desert Storm and returned to Orange County, where he took a job with Brinks in Orange five years ago.