After Rite Aid clerk killed in Glassell Park store, suspect is arrested
A man has been arrested in connection with the death of a Rite Aid clerk who was shot while confronting shoplifters in the Glassell Park store, police said.
Anthony Lemus, 20, was arrested Monday on suspicion of murder, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Two weeks earlier, two men tried to leave the drugstore on Eagle Rock Boulevard without paying for two cases of beer, according to an LAPD statement.
An employee, identified by police as 36-year-old Miguel Penaloza, confronted the pair when they tried to leave just before 9 p.m. July 15, authorities said.
After a brief struggle, one of the suspected shoplifters pulled a handgun and shot and killed Penaloza, police said. The clerk died in the store, and both men bolted through the parking lot.
Seeking help from the public in the wake of the shooting, police released images of the two men recorded on the store’s security camera.
Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying two suspects wanted in connection with the killing of a Glassell Park Rite Aid employee.
Police on Tuesday said there was no information about the second suspect.
Penaloza had tendered his resignation and was set to leave his job in mid-August, said Chris Savarese, a Rite Aid spokesperson.
Former closing supervisor David Cruz told media outlets that “beer runs” were not uncommon at that store, and that sometimes, staffing shortages made it hard to deal with such security problems.
“We always had people coming in [to] steal liquor,” Cruz told ABC-TV Channel 7. “Other guests would see they’d run out with the merchandise, and they’d be like, ‘Well, if they did it, why can’t we?’ It was a huge security issue.”
Shortly after the shooting, the employees union for the store, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, said workers have expressed concerns about safety at the location for months.
“His death should not have happened,” the union said in a statement. “For several months, [union] members have highlighted safety issues at this store. ... Rite Aid has refused, in store after store, to provide adequate professional security for its employees.”
Savarese said in a statement that the company is “shocked and saddened by the killing of a valued associate.”
The company closed the store after the shooting “to aid the police and reassess our security measures,” he said in a follow-up statement. He said employees who worked at the location are currently on paid leave.
When the store reopens, a security guard will be stationed on-site and it will be outfitted with an enhanced camera system, according to the statement.
Security measures will be added at other stores in the area, “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the statement.
A memorial for Penaloza was set up outside the drugstore, and friends and family held a vigil.
Lesly Garcia, a former co-worker, told ABC News that Penaloza was “very loving, he always had a smile on his face,” and worked two jobs to support his parents.
A GoFundMe page launched to support Penaloza’s funeral costs said his family and friends are searching for “meaning and hope” as they contend with his death.
“Miguel’s beautiful spirit touched the hearts of everyone who knew him, and his death has left so many heartbroken and in disbelief,” the fundraiser states.
Penaloza is survived by his mother, father, brother, sister, three nephews and partner, according to information on the GoFundMe site.
Times staff writers Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Leila Miller contributed to this report.
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