CANOGA PARK — A 42-year-old father of six was shot dead in a parking lot by a gunman who robbed nearby convenience stores before and after the shooting, police said Monday.
"The guy [stole] a purse at a 7-Eleven, then a little later shot and killed a guy, and then about half a mile away did another robbery at a 7-Eleven," said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Joe Buscaino.
Police released photographs of the robber taken by security cameras at the stores and asked the public's help in finding him.
"We have photos, but we have no idea who he is," Capt. Joseph Curreri said at a news conference Monday afternoon outside the LAPD's Devonshire Division.
The victim of Sunday night's shooting was Leonardo Gomez-Perez of Canoga Park. There was no evidence Gomez-Perez knew the gunman, Det. Mike Oppelt said.
"It's likely the motive was attempted robbery," Oppelt said. "The victim was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Gomez-Perez, who worked as a house painter, had a wife and six children in Guatemala, police said. He shared an apartment here with his brother-in-law, Israel Soloman.
"He went out to buy something at a store," said Soloman, whose comments were interrupted several times by tears. "He never came back."
The first robbery, about 9:45 p.m., occurred at a 7-Eleven in the 20500 block of Roscoe Boulevard in Winnetka. The robber followed a 27-year-old woman into the store and demanded her purse at gunpoint, police said.
About 10 minutes later, the shooting occurred in front of a small shopping center about half a mile away at the intersection of Roscoe Boulevard and De Soto Avenue in Canoga Park. Gomez-Perez was shot once in the upper body, Buscaino said.
Oppelt said an item from the purse stolen at the 7-Eleven was found at the shooting scene. "I don't think it got there by mistake a half-mile away and 10 minutes later," Oppelt said. "There is no doubt there is a link between the man who robbed the first 7-Eleven and the shooting."
Oppelt declined to say what item was found at the scene.
"We are not sure if the suspect took anything from the [shooting] victim, but it was attempted robbery at best," he said.
The third incident occurred at 1:15 a.m. Monday at a 7-Eleven in the 21600 block of Roscoe Boulevard in Canoga Park, police said. An undisclosed amount was taken from the cash register.
"If you look at the pictures from the two 7-Elevens, I think you can see it looks like the same man," Oppelt said. "Different shirt, but there was plenty of time to change."
The suspect was described as black, weighing between 160 and 190 pounds, about 25 to 35 years old and having a shaved head.
Mario Alvarez, 29, who knew Gomez-Perez, said the victim was a kind man who worked hard.
"He never hurt anybody," Alvarez said. "If you needed help and he could do it, he would. That's the kind of person he was."
Alvarez said he never remembered Gomez-Perez expressing any fear about walking alone at night.
"For him," Alvarez said, "everyone was a friend."