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Suspect Sought in Guard's Shooting Death

Crime: Woman surrenders, identifies man on Sears surveillance tape. Second mall victim is recuperating.

August 17, 1997|JOHN CANALIS and PETER M. WARREN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ORANGE, Calif. — Police were searching Saturday night for a Bell man suspected of shooting to death one security guard and wounding another during a botched shoplifting Friday at the Mall of Orange.

Gilbert Ortiz, 20, was believed to be hiding in south Los Angeles County, possibly in his hometown of Paramount. He also uses the surnames Castro and Acosta, police said.

Ortiz's front teeth are lined with gold dental work, unusual for a man his age. He is described as Latino, 5 foot 8, 150 pounds, with short, dark brown hair and brown eyes.

The dead guard has been identified as Kyle O'Brien, 22, of Orange. Randall Depue, 20, also of Orange, was hit once in the wrist and is recovering at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Anaheim. Depue described his condition as good Saturday but declined to make further comment.

Police said they were able to identify Ortiz with the aid of a 35-year-old woman, whom witnesses saw leaving the mall with the suspect in a car. She turned herself in to Bell police Saturday, Orange Police Lt. Art Romo said.

Authorities had already identified Ortiz from a surveillance tape, but the woman confirmed "what we already knew," Romo said.

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"We believe he is responsible for shooting both Sears employees," the lieutenant said.

The incident began about 4 p.m. Friday when a man approached a Sears employee and said he had recently purchased a new paint sprayer he was carrying and wanted to return it without a receipt. The clerk called two store guards, who asked the man for identification, Romo said.

Police and witnesses said the two unarmed security officers--O'Brien and Depue--walked to the parking lot, apparently to obtain identification from the suspect's car.

A struggle ensued and the suspect pulled out a handgun and shot O'Brien twice in the chest at close range, police said. The second guard was shot once.

The suspect got into a silver Buick Skyhawk driven by the woman, and they sped from the parking lot and onto Tustin Street, police said.

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They entered the Costa Mesa Freeway, headed south and got off at Katella Avenue, police said. They drove a short distance then abandoned the car behind a tire shop.

Ortiz and the woman walked to a Ralphs supermarket and got into a cab. The woman was dropped off in Santa Fe Springs, and the cab drove away with Ortiz inside, police said. Authorities were questioning the cabdriver Saturday.

O'Brien's relatives visited the Orange County coroner's office Saturday morning, and a visibly distraught Kelly O'Brien retrieved some of his brother's belongings from the Orange Police Department. He declined to make a comment.

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