Lake Forest, CA – The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) released bodycam and security footage that captured the moment when an armed shoplifter was shot in the head while brawling with deputies at a Walmart store in January.
The incident occurred at the Foothill Ranch Walmart Supercenter located at 26502 Towne Centre Drive shortly before 9:40 p.m. on Jan 18, OCSD Sergeant Ryan Anderson said in the 21-minute video briefing.
A store loss prevention employee called the sheriff’s office dispatch center and reported that two suspects were walking around the store with a “suspected fraudulent receipt” on a phone and that they had “high-priced items” in a cart, Sgt. Anderson said.
“It’s a fraudulent receipt,” the caller said in the dispatch recording. “I clearly saw him in the electronics department grabbing high-ticket merchandise. They’re going to walk out soon.”
The employee provided the dispatcher with descriptions of both suspects and deputies were dispatched to the scene.
When they arrived, a Walmart employee directed them to a man and woman who were standing beside a cart filled with merchandise, Sgt. Anderson explained.
Bodycam footage showed the deputies as they approached the duo and explained to them that the manager wanted them to leave the store.
“They feel like you guys are about to steal,” the deputy said. “I guess you have a fake Walmart receipt on your phone?”
The male suspect weakly denied the accusation.
“Okay, well, we don’t have to get into that if you guys just want to leave peacefully,” the deputy responded. “You guys want to do that?”
The loss control employee asked that both suspects be given a trespass warning with a notation they are to be arrested if they return to the store, the bodycam footage showed.
Deputies detained the suspects and began leading them out of the store at the request of the business.
That’s when one of the deputies realized the male suspect was armed with a knife, Sgt. Anderson said.
When he alerted the other deputy, the suspect placed his hand on the weapon.
“Don’t reach for it,” the deputy warned him as he tried to pull the suspect’s hand away from the blade. “Get your f—king hand off the knife.”
He was able to retrieve the knife and ordered the suspect to “get the f—k out of the store,” bodycam footage showed.
“I’m not playing around,” the deputy said, handing the knife off to his partner.
He told the suspect he was going to be handcuffed because deputies didn’t know if he had any other weapons, but the suspect would not comply, bodycam footage showed.
The suspect asked for someone to help him and called out for his wife as the deputies struggled to gain control of him.
The situation quickly escalated and deputies ended up taking the suspect to the ground, bodycam footage showed.
That’s when a deputy suddenly realized the suspect had “accessed a concealed gun,” Sgt. Anderson said.
Still frames from the deputies’ bodycams showed the suspect gripping the firearm during the fight.
“Shoot him!” yelled one of the deputies and a bystander who had jumped in to help them.
One of the deputies fired a single round, hitting the suspect in the head, the video showed.
“I’m dying!” the suspect yelled out repeatedly as deputies radioed for emergency medical personnel.
The suspect was provided medical attention before being transported to a local hospital.
No deputies or bystanders were injured during the melee.
The suspect has since been released from the hospital and was booked into the Orange County Jail on multiple outstanding warrants, as well as three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, according to KCBS.
He has been identified as 30-year-old Ernesto Paul Aguilar, KNBC reported.
The female suspect fled the scene but was later located in Midway City, the Los Angeles Patch reported.
She and another man were both detained, but neither was ultimately arrested.
The woman later told KNBC she had no idea Aguilar was armed with a knife and gun when they went into the store.
“Carrying a gun into Walmart is like a death sentence,” she lamented.
The woman claimed Aguilar was just buying her toys and diapers for her children, KNBC reported.
“Anytime someone calls Ernie to help them out, he’s willing to help them out,” she said.
She said she left the store and drove off in her car, leaving Aguilar and the deputies behind.
“I wasn’t under arrest, didn’t commit a crime, so even if they got my license plate, I didn’t think they’d come and get me for anything because I didn’t commit a crime,” she told KNBC.
The woman denied allegations she and Aguilar intended to steal anything and said he was planning to pay for the items with the $1,000 in cash he was carrying.
“I’m traumatized. Just thinking about Walmart makes me want to throw up,” she told KNBC. “I will never step foot inside a Walmart ever again in my life.”
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is handling the primary investigation into the deputies’ actions to determine whether or not they acted within the scope of the law, according to the OCSD.
The OCSD Homicide Unit will investigate the criminal conduct of the suspects.
The OCSD will also conduct an internal investigation into the incident.
You can see video from the incident below. Warning – Graphic Content: