Although shot and wounded by a would-be robber Saturday, the manager of a fast-food restaurant was still able to wrest a sawed-off rifle from his attacker and beat the man on the head with the weapon, authorities said.
Antonio Ornales, 32, suffered two wounds to the chest, but the .22-caliber bullets did not penetrate internally, said an official at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. He was listed in fair condition.
Christopher Hartley, 25, suspected of being Ornales’ attacker, was taken to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, where he was treated for head injuries.
“Apparently he had been thumped pretty well,” Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Leonard said.
The incident occurred shortly after midnight Saturday at the Carl’s Jr. at 2092 S. Bristol St., Leonard said. The site is in an unincorporated area between Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.
From his hospital bed, a tired and bandaged Ornales recounted what were the longest minutes of his life--a period where one moment he was staring into the cold barrel of the sawed-off .22-caliber rifle, and the next he was using the same weapon to thrash his attacker.
Ornales said he was walking from the kitchen when he saw a man pointing a rifle at an employee, demanding money.
“He said, ‘I want the money or I will kill everybody,’ ” Ornales recalled. “I opened the register. . . . There was not too much money, just about $80. He got mad about it and told me to open the safe in the office.”
During this time, Ornales said, the gunman fired three shots into the air, one of them whizzing over Ornales’ head.
Ornales led the assailant into the back office, where he started to open the safe.
“I was so nervous, I made the wrong combo (lock combination) and couldn’t open the safe the first time,” he said. “He said, ‘Do it good; if not, you’re dead. You’re a dead man.’ ”
Ornales opened the safe, but when the gunman saw that it was empty, he angrily fired two more shots, then shoved Ornales out of the office. The two went back to the dining room.
“I don’t remember what he said, but he kept the gun very close to my body, and suddenly he shot me twice,” Ornales recalled.
Despite pain, Ornales reacted by reaching out and grabbing the rifle from his attacker, and before he realized what he was doing, he began to strike his tormentor on the head, he said.
“I didn’t think about being shot. At that moment, I just thought that this guy was going to hurt my employees,” said Ornales, who has been manager at the restaurant for 10 months.
The two men struggled for a few seconds before the robber fled out the back door. Undaunted, Ornales chased him and tackled the suspect in the parking lot. Three other employees joined Ornales and held the suspect until sheriff’s deputies arrived.
“By the time we got there, the suspect had been overpowered,” Leonard said.
After he was treated at the hospital, Hartley was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon and taken to Orange County Jail.
Times staff writer Bob Elston contributed to this story.