Student Slain While Noting License of Suspicious Van


Police said Thursday they were searching for two men in connection with the fatal shooting of a UC Irvine engineering student who was slain while trying to jot down the license number of a van he thought was linked to a recent vandalism.

Garden Grove police said Robert Sapinoso, 19, who lived in Westminster, suffered multiple gunshot wounds about 6:50 p.m. Wednesday.

Sapinoso’s passenger, who was not identified, wrested the victim from the driver’s seat of the car and drove his friend to a nearby hospital that did not have an emergency room.

Sapinoso was pronounced dead by emergency rescue paramedics summoned by hospital personnel to Vencor Hospital Orange County, which has been without an emergency room for two years.


Police Lt. John Woods said that because of the severity of Sapinoso’s wounds, it was not known if he would have survived had he been treated sooner, either by paramedics at the scene of the shooting, or at one of the hospitals with an emergency room.

Police said the assailants were described as two men between 17 and 21 years old.

Sapinoso and his friend were outside Sapinoso’s car not far from the intersection of Trask Avenue and Newland Street, when they saw the van drive past and recognized it as a vehicle involved in a recent car vandalism, Woods said. Woods said he did not know whose car had been vandalized.

“They decided to follow it and get the license number,” Woods said.


As the pair stopped at the intersection, the van’s occupants apparently realized that they were being followed and decided to strike, Woods said. “The passenger got out of the van . . . and was able to walk right up” and fire four or five shots from a handgun through the windshield, he said.

The suspects fled in the van, which Westminster police said fit the description of a vehicle used in at least two recent burglaries.

The hospital administrator at Vencor said a sign in front warns that the facility has no emergency room. The hospital now specializes in respiratory diseases and is not licensed for emergency care.

When the two men arrived, a nurse tried to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation and staffers called paramedics, said administrator Rich McCarthy.


“We provided a level of care we were capable of doing. We did not refuse treatment. We did not turn him away,” McCarthy said.

Woods said Sapinoso managed to capture part of the license number. “He got part of it--not the whole thing,” he said.