Armed robbers scrambled for cover Sunday morning when a Riverside County liquor store owner opened fire with his own gun from behind the counter.
Dramatic surveillance video footage from inside Norco Market and Liquor shows of one of the masked men shouting commands as he entered the store with a rifle raised in the direction of the store owner. Within seconds, the quick-acting owner replied by firing a round from behind the counter, turning what began as a hold-up into a chaotic getaway.
“They came in telling him, ‘Freeze,’ and something about, ‘This is a robbery,'” said Marnie Tapia, a store employee. “I’m sure [the owner] thought, ‘No, it ain’t,’ because he just opened fire.”
One rifle blast can be heard from behind the counter. The would-be robber immediately ran from the store.
Cameras outside the market captured the man running to a BMW SUV as one of four armed accomplices exited from a rear door. That man quickly got back inside the SUV after the sound of gunfire and screams.
“He was screaming, ‘He shot my arm off! He shot my arm off!'” Tapia said.
A third individual raced to catch up with the SUV as it pulled out of the parking lot.
Store employees said the owner saw the armed men on the outside security camera when they arrived. The security cameras were just recently installed at the market.
“He prepares himself,” Tapia said. “He’s dealt with this before.”
The injured suspect was found in a nearby hospital where he was being treated for a gunshot wound, the sheriff’s department said. He remained hospitalized in critical, but stable, condition and will be booked into jail after he’s released from the hospital.
The other three suspects were found in the hospital’s parking lot inside the BMW, which had been previously reported as stolen. They were arrested and booked on suspicion of robbery and conspiracy charges, authorities said. They are from Inglewood, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and are being held on $500,000 bail.
“In this case, a lawfully armed member of our community prevented a violent crime and ensured their own safety while being confronted with multiple armed suspects,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.
Employees said the store owner suffered a heart attack shortly after the confrontation. He is recovering and expects to return soon to work, they said.
“I’m proud to call him my boss,” Tapia said. “He’s very protective of us all.”