The five crime scenes were all 7-Eleven stores.
Five people were shot, two fatally, at four of the stores in Southern California early Monday, and the police said at least three of the shootings seemed to be the work of the same gunman. A fifth store in the area was robbed of about $500 in cash.
Law enforcement officials were pondering what significance the date of the shootings and robberies — July 11, or 7-11 — might hold. On Monday, 7-Eleven was celebrating its 95th birthday by giving customers free Slurpee drinks.
“We don’t know if there’s any relation to today being July 11,” Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department, said by phone. “Only the suspect can tell us that.”
The authorities were still searching for the gunman by late Monday afternoon.
Representatives of 7-Eleven did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Monday, but the company told CBS Los Angeles in a statement: “Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones. We are gathering information on this terrible tragedy and working with local law enforcement.”
The crimes spanned about four hours and covered a stretch of about 40 miles through Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, south and east of Los Angeles.
At about 12:40 a.m., a man entered a 7-Eleven in Upland and aimed his gun at a clerk, demanding cash, Sgt. Jacob Kirk of the Upland Police Department said by phone. The gunman stole about $500, he said.
He added that it was a “possibility” that the man was the same one who had committed crimes at other 7-Elevens that day. “We’re working with some other agencies to try to figure that out,” Sergeant Kirk said.
The first shooting occurred in Riverside, at about 1:50 a.m. The police found a man in his 40s inside a 7-Eleven who was bleeding from a gunshot wound, Officer Railsback said. The gunman, whom investigators were still trying to identify, had robbed the store at gunpoint and shot a customer, he said.
The man was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in “grave condition” as of Monday afternoon, Officer Railsback said.
He added that while the police had not connected the shooting to the others at area 7-Eleven stores, “it doesn’t mean it’s not connected.”
“There’s a lot of similarities there,” he said, adding that Riverside investigators were communicating with the other agencies looking into the 7-Eleven shootings.
The police departments in Santa Ana, Brea and La Habra said the same gunman was responsible for shootings at 7-Elevens in those cities. They had not identified him as of Monday afternoon, but they released surveillance footage that appeared to show him wearing a mask that covered most of his face and a distinctive hooded sweatshirt.
By about 3:23 a.m., the gunman had traveled to Santa Ana, about 40 miles southwest of Riverside, and attempted to rob a man in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven, Sgt. Maria Lopez of the Santa Ana Police Department said by phone. The gunman shot the man, who was not an employee of the convenience store, in his upper torso, killing him, she said.
Investigators looked at surveillance footage in the area and found that the gunman had “discarded some items that appeared to be the victim’s,” Sergeant Lopez said.
The gunman then traveled 13 miles north to Brea, where that city’s police department said in a news conference that at about 4 a.m., the gunman had shot and killed a 7-Eleven clerk while attempting to rob the store.
“This does appear to be a robbery that turned into a homicide,” said Capt. Philip Rodriguez of the Brea Police Department.
He said that investigators felt “confident that it is the same suspect” who traveled to La Habra about 20 minutes later and shot two people. Those victims were taken to a hospital, said Sgt. Sumner Bohee of the La Habra Police Department.