"It's one thing to go in and put a gun in the face of a person who's running a commercial establishment and ask him for the money. It's a totally different thing by assassinating the person that you're robbing," Baca said. "That, to me, is very cartel-ish in its style."
But Baca also said there have been no robberies or violence at dispensaries in the Sheriff Department's jurisdiction, which includes West Hollywood.
Cooley, who has prosecuted scores of dispensaries and is the Republican Party's nominee for attorney general, said, "It's predictable gangs will get involved. They go where the money is."
The two dispensaries are among those that registered in 2007 to continue to operate legally under the city's pot-shop moratorium, and both recently notified the City Clerk that they intend to remain open.
Kristin Dickson, who owns a craft and clothing store near Higher Path, said she went outside Thursday and saw a security guard bleeding as he walked down the street.
"I don't have anything against marijuana pharmacies as a business," she said. "But because it's created opportunities for crime, as a business owner I want something that complements my business, not something that creates an opportunity for crime to happen."
Across the street at Hubbard Auto Repair, office manager Lorena Hubbard said she believed police had responded twice before to robberies at the site. The first time, she said, the operators installed cameras. The second time, she said, the robbers tied up everyone in the store.
Backes, who runs Cornerstone, said Butcher had worked for him for about a year as a part-time bookkeeper. He described him as bright and curious, "definitely not the hardened pot shop guy."
"He's really, really a sweet human being. It's a real shock," he said.
Billy Bones, the operator of Hollywood Holistic 2, said the store has been open two years and has never been the target of any crimes or violence before Thursday.
Bones said his slain employee "was a good guy." "He didn't deserve this," he said. "He was really good with people. I'm pretty sure he would have given them anything they wanted."
Times staff writers John Hoeffel and David Zahniser contributed to this report.