Two people have died, and three left injured after a lone gunman went on a robbery spree targetting 7-Eleven stores in Southern California.
In the wake of the violence, authorities have launched a manhunt with the same suspect wanted for at least three of the six robberies.
The stores were all targetted within about five hours of each other yesterday, or 7/11, the day when the US-wide brand celebrates its anniversary.
This is its 95th year and to celebrate shops gave out free Slurpee drinks.
It was not immediately clear to investigators what prompted the violence in the cities of Ontario, Upland, Riverside, Santa Ana, Brea and La Habra.
But police have not ruled out the theory the crimes are linked to the date, which has been described as ‘no accident’.
The first robbery took place in Ontario, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles at around midnight.
A masked man brandishing a handgun threatened the store’s employee demanding money, according to Ontario Cpl Emily Hernandez.
He did not fire and the worker was not injured.
It was not immediately clear to investigators what, if anything, was stolen.
About 45 minutes later, less than five miles away in Upland, a man entered a 7-Eleven and approached the shop assistant with ‘some drinks and things’ before brandishing a semi-automatic handgun, Upland Sgt Jake Kirk said.
The man stole the items and about $400 – $500 dollars in cash before fleeing. No shots were fired.
CCTV photos, released by Upland and Brea police, show a masked man wearing a black sweatshirt with a hood over his head.
The sweatshirt had white lettering with green leaves on the front.
Police in La Habra, Brea and Santa Ana have said they believe they are seeking the same suspect.
Officials in Ontario, Upland and Riverside have not yet said whether they believe the same person is behind the incidents but have said they are aware of the other 7-Eleven robberies.
‘It could potentially be the same person but we’re not confirming that at this time,’ Mr Kirk said.
About an hour after the Upland robbery, a 7-Eleven 25 miles away in Riverside was targetted by a man brandishing a gun.
The gunman robbed a worker before opening fire on a customer, officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department said.
Police believe the shop assistant handed over money from the till.
The shooting victim was in grave condition.
‘It doesn’t appear to be any reason that the suspect shot the customer,’ Mr Railsback said.
‘It sounds like the clerk gave him whatever he asked for.’
Mr Railsback said criminals typically know robberies at convenience shops rarely yield large amounts of money, especially during the overnight hours.
‘If you go hit a liquor store or a 7-Eleven or a fast food place, you’re not going to get a lot of cash out of it,’ he said.
‘It’s kind of odd that they would do this.’
Twenty-four miles away, at around 3.20am police were called to a report a shooting in Santa Ana.
Officers reported gunfire and found a man dead in the 7-Eleven car park with a gunshot wound to his upper torso, according to Santa Ana Sgt Maria Lopez.
‘At this moment, we don’t believe he was an employee,’ Ms Lopez said of the victim.
‘We don’t really know yet what he was doing there in a parking lot, if he was a potential customer or just walking by.’
CCTV video shows the suspect dropping items – believed to be the victim’s belongings – as he fled, Ms Lopez said.
About 40 minutes later, a 7-Eleven employee in Brea was shot and Ki**ed, Brea Police Capt Phil Rodriguez said.
Less than an hour later, officers in neighbouring La Habra were sent to a reported robbery at a 7-Eleven.
They discovered two gunshot victims at around 4.55am, according to Sgt Sumner Bohee.
Authorities have not disclosed the victims’ conditions.
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