Two security guards were fatally shot in separate attacks that security firm owners Friday said underline the increasing hazards of their business.
In the most recent killing, at a Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurant in Burbank early Friday, a man approached unarmed guard Walter H. Thomas III, 44, who was patrolling the parking lot, and fired several times, striking Thomas at least twice, according to witnesses and Burbank police.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Eddy Sanchez, 32, was shot during a struggle with bank robbers at Hanmi Bank near 1st Street and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, the LAPD said.
No suspects have been identified.
"Two or three incidents like this is highly unusual, especially in such a short period of time," said Thomas Wathen, chairman of Van Nuys-based Pinkerton Security and Investigations. "But the more security guards there are out there, the more likely it is to happen. It's very dangerous out there."
In Burbank, the shooting was preceded by at least two fights and three arrests as patrons crowded into the restaurant's bar for $2 shots of tequila and beer, police and employees said.
After one of the brawls police arrested three men, who were still in custody when the security guard was gunned down, said Burbank Police Sgt. Scott Wilson. Employees, however, said Friday that friends of the men had threatened them after the arrests.
"They said, 'We're gonna get you' said one of the employees, all of whom asked not to be identified.
The restaurant's manager and other officials with the company declined to comment.
In the second incident, guard Eddy Sanchez apparently didn't realize that the bank was about to be robbed when three men entered about 11 a.m. Thursday, said Lt. Ken Lady of the Los Angeles Police Department. When he became aware of what was happening, police said, Sanchez approached two of the men and was struggling with them when a gun went off.
Sanchez was armed but did not draw his weapon, police said. The three robbers, who were all armed, escaped on foot.
The bank employs two guards, but the other one--who is Sanchez's cousin--had gone on a break moments before the shooting, Lady said. Sanchez's employer, API Security Inc., did not return phone calls Friday.
Being a security guard is among the most dangerous professions in the United States, with an annual homicide rate of 3.6 per 100,000, according to a 1994 study by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.
"The job is extremely dangerous, probably more dangerous than being a police officer because of lack of backups, lack of equipment and lack of training," said Walter Cranston, owner of Cranston Security Services in North Hollywood. "Armed or unarmed, it's not going to make a difference," Cranston said. "The state training is next to nothing. (The guards) are not mentally prepared to deal with the situation."
Police know Black Angus, a popular watering hole on 1st Street in downtown Burbank, as a place where the crowd frequently gets out of hand.
"Hardly a week goes by when there is not an arrest there," said Wilson of the Burbank police. "We've had shootings over the years, but no one's been hurt."
Last year, the restaurant's management agreed to hire an outside security firm to police the parking lot and to discontinue its popular $1 drink nights when Burbank police and Alcohol Beverage Control officials complained about frequent fights there, said ABC district administrator Jim Smith.
Thomas, an employee of Ace Security Services, was in the parking lot as part of the Black Angus security detail, police said. Employees said nine guards had been hired to help with the large crowd.
On Friday, Thomas' friends and family were angry about his death. After his son's death, Thomas' father quit his job at the same firm.
"An unarmed security agent is too dangerous," said Malcolm Thomas, Walter's brother. "We can't afford to have this happen again."
Others said Thomas, who had worked for Ace for about four months after a stint as an aerospace contractor, might have survived had he been taken to a hospital sooner.
"He had nothing to do with the fight," said Malcolm Thomas. "He was there to guard the parking lot."
"He was close to a hospital and bled to death," said Patricia Smith, the dead man's sister. "Why didn't the paramedic get there in time? It's within walking distance."
Thomas' mother is under observation at Thompson Memorial Medical Center in Burbank because she has a heart condition.