A woman shopper loading bags into her car at Topanga Plaza was fatally shot by a gunman who was shot and wounded hours later during a fight with a Chatsworth liquor store owner he tried to rob, police said Saturday.
The name of the 45-year-old Canoga Park woman was not released because her relatives had not been notified. She had left the May Co. about 7:30 p.m. Friday and was getting into her Corvette when she was confronted by a gunman who shot her in the head at close range, Los Angeles Police Lt. Richard Pooler said.
The man, identified as Emelito Halili Exmundo, fled in the Corvette. Shortly after 10 p.m., he drove to the Country Squire Liquor Store about three miles away, Pooler said.
Exmundo attempted to rob store owner John Olden, 49, at gunpoint, police said. But Olden fought with the man behind the counter. The gun went off three times during the struggle, wounding Exmundo in the leg, police said.
Olden and his wife, Charlyne, held Exmundo until police arrived, Pooler said. Exmundo was treated at Northridge Hospital Medical Center and was being held Saturday without bail at County-USC Medical Center on suspicion of murder, he said.
Police spokesman Dennis Zine said the mall parking lot is not considered “a bad crime area, no more so than any other mall.” Mall officials refused to comment.
Olden, who has owned his store at 21717 Devonshire St. for six years, said he and his wife were in an office about 10:15 p.m. when he saw Exmundo on a video monitor.
Olden said that when he came out of the office, Exmundo put on a ski mask. Olden said Exmundo poked a gun in his chest and demanded money.
“I said, ‘Whatever you say,’ and pulled out about $100 from the cash register,” Olden said. “I started to hand it to him and then he said, ‘Put it in a bag.’ And that’s when I got a real bad feeling. I looked at him and thought, ‘No matter what I do, this guy is going to shoot me.’ ”
He said he flashed back to an incident he heard about a few years ago in which a liquor store clerk in Van Nuys was shot and killed by an armed robber. “He cooperated, gave the guy the money, but made a wrong move. He was killed, blown away,” Olden said.
As he reached for a bag, Olden said, he knocked away Exmundo’s arm. He said he then grabbed Exmundo’s hand with both of his and tried to wrestle the gun away. He said Exmundo jumped over the counter and they struggled. Charlyne Olden saw the two men struggling on the monitor. She heard gunfire and saw her husband lean to the side.
“I thought he had been shot,” she said. She ran to the store’s bathroom to hide, thinking that the gunman would next come after her.
Olden said he and Exmundo wrestled on the small floor space between the counter and a wall fully stocked with liquor bottles.
Olden called to his wife for help. She came out of the bathroom and phoned police from the office. She then ran into the store and found her husband still struggling. The gun went off two more times.
Olden then managed to get the better of the gunman. He straddled on top of him and shouted for his wife to hit the man over the head with a bottle.
“Then the guy said, ‘Yeah. Kill me.’ It was really creepy,” Charlyne Olden said. “I grabbed a half-gallon bottle of Jim Beam, but the way he was positioned, I couldn’t get much leverage. I hit him, and the bottle didn’t even break.”
John Olden then shattered a quart bottle of liquor over Exmundo’s head. The struggle stopped.
Olden said he did not know about the shooting in the mall until Saturday morning. “I feel I’m lucky to be alive,” he said. “I feel I made the right decision.”
It was the first armed robbery at the store, he said.