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The Region

Shootout Questions Remain

October 25, 2002|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

Bullet holes marred the picture frames and door jamb of the real estate office Thursday, and drops of blood still speckled the floor where a Laguna Beach police officer and a store clerk had been wounded.

At the BMW repair shop, chalk circles marked where pieces of evidence had lain, and numbered tags identified bullet holes in a motor home.

Yet tiny Herb Import Co. between the two businesses looked virtually untouched despite an attempted robbery there Wednesday that turned into a fatal shootout on the sidewalk of this beach town, where lawbreaking usually means shoplifting or speeding.

As police investigators tried to determine why the ski-masked robber killed in the gunfire chose the small purveyor of herbal medicines, incense and smoking paraphernalia, local business owners and curious residents expressed relief that the city's officer and the young clerk would recover.

Larry Bammer, the first Laguna Beach cop to be shot on duty since the 1950s, remained in the intensive care unit Thursday at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo with a wound on the left side of his abdomen. Lt. Mike Hall said Bammer was expected to be released as early as today.

"He's young, he's energetic, he loves his profession and likely won't be off too long," Laguna Beach Police Chief James Spreine said.

The clerk, Jaques Nenijian, 26, of Laguna Beach, was in critical but stable condition at the same hospital.

Police would not release the name of the 26-year-old gunman because his relatives had not been notified.

Hall said investigators have not determined why the man shot Nenijian, whom he was handcuffing when he fired. A female clerk in the store was unharmed. One nearby store owner said the woman was Nenijian's girlfriend.

Hall said the robber was seen an hour earlier a block north on South Coast Highway walking on the sidewalk. He said there was no evidence a second person was involved.

Police found two pistols on the robber, the .357 he used to shoot the officer and the clerk and a .22 in his backpack.

A duffel bag the robber carried with him was filled with an undisclosed amount of cash and merchandise he had taken from the store, including several $67 scales and glass bongs.

Locals expressed puzzlement about why the man would try to rob a small shop that probably carried only a minimal amount of cash and was miles from the nearest freeway on which to make an escape.

"Nobody said you had to be smart to be a crook," said Mike Hendrix, owner of the repair shop next door.

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