A security guard died after he was shot while protecting a San Francisco Bay Area TV news crew covering a smash-and-grab theft, part of a rash of organized retail crime in the region.
“We are devastated by the loss of security guard and our friend, Kevin Nishita,” Kron-TV’s vice-president and general manager, Jim Rose, said in a statement on Saturday. “Our deepest sympathy goes to Kevin’s wife, his children, his family, and to all his friends and colleagues.”
Parts of California have been struck by organized bands of thieves, some carrying crowbars and hammers, who break into high-end stores and snatch merchandise.
Similar thefts were reported in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
At least eight people stormed a Home Depot store in Lakewood on Friday and grabbed hammers, crowbars and sledgehammers in the tool section before dashing off in a getaway vehicle, the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department said.
Four people who may have participated in the Home Depot theft were arrested in Beverly Hills after officers stopped two cars that were part of a caravan of vehicles driving around the city’s business district, police Lt Giovanni Trejo said.
A bystander called police after seeing that some of the vehicles did not display license plates, Trejo added.
Meantime, police in Los Angeles arrested three people suspected of storming a designer clothing store on Melrose Place after stopping a vehicle and seeing clothes in plain view, said Mike Lopez, of the Los Angeles police department. Lopez said more than 10 people ransacked another store on La Brea Avenue.
The thefts are believed to be part of criminal networks that recruit people to steal merchandise throughout the US and then sell it online. Experts and law enforcement officials say the thefts are ratcheting up as the holiday shopping season begins.
Nishita, a former police officer, was an armed guard for Star Protection Agency and provided security for many reporters in the region. He was shot in the abdomen during an attempted robbery of Kron-TV’s camera equipment near downtown Oakland on Wednesday, police said. The news crew was covering a recent robbery where a group of thieves attacked a clothing store.
A reward of $32,500 was offered for information leading to an arrest in Nishita’s killing.
“This senseless loss of life is due to yet another violent criminal act in the Bay Area,” Rose said. “We hope that offering a reward will help lead to the arrest of those responsible so they can face justice for this terrible tragedy.”