Two Sears Roebuck & Co. employees chased suspected car thieves out of a mall parking lot and through a neighborhood Wednesday, even as one suspect turned and fired shots at them.
“I just really wanted to catch these guys,” said Esequiel Guzman, 22. “If it were your car, I would’ve done the same thing.”
Guzman, a salesman in the Sears Auto Center in Buena Park Mall, was working about 11 a.m. when he looked out the window and noticed two male teen-agers walking around his 1982 Buick in the parking lot.
He approached the two, both with shaven heads and dressed in baggy clothing, and tried to ward them off, Guzman said. The teen-agers ran, but one turned, pulled out a handgun and shouted threats at Guzman, he said.
“They thought if they had a gun I wouldn’t turn them over,” Guzman said. “I didn’t back off. I got in my car and ran after them.”
A Sears co-worker followed the chase in his car through a residential tract off Stanton Avenue. When the teen-agers jumped a wall, Guzman abandoned his car and followed them.
“When I jumped over the 10-foot wall, I thought to myself, ‘What if they were right there?’ ” Guzman said. “It was scary at that second, but it didn’t stop me.”
The co-worker, who asked not to be identified, drove around the wall in his car and picked up Guzman.
At that point during the chase, one of the teen-agers reached into his friend’s pants pocket and pulled out the gun, firing several rounds at Guzman and his friend, Cheney said. No one was struck, but a bullet hit the car, Cheney said.
In a strawberry patch, the teen-agers disappeared, Guzman said. He called police from a nearby house.
Buena Park police surrounded the area and chased the teen-agers up Stanton Avenue to the Riverside Freeway, where the suspects scrambled up an embankment.
Javier Torres Paz, 19, of Long Beach was arrested on the freeway. Jorge Jauregui, also 19 and from Long Beach, kept running west, ducking into a flood-control channel, Cheney said.
Police closed a stretch of the westbound Riverside Freeway from Beach Boulevard to Knott Avenue at 11:45 a.m. for about 20 minutes as they searched for Jauregui. Sheriff’s dogs brought to the scene found Jaurequi’s scent within 10 minutes, Cheney said.
“The suspect was found in a tree near the freeway by the dogs,” Cheney said. “He was not bit by the dog.”
Buena Park Police Sgt. Lloyd Schwengel said Guzman and his co-worker “helped us catch the suspects. But following a suspect is not something we’d normally recommend. It can endanger your life. And in this case, the suspect was armed and it could have been much worse.”
But Guzman said he would do it again.
“I probably overreacted,” he admitted. “But this is not the first time something like this has happened around here. These guys were trying to take something that wasn’t theirs. I would do it again no matter what the circumstance is. Whether it’s your car or someone else’s.”