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Crime scene tape.

Its Friday morning and usually assignments during this time of the year are graduations, municipal construction projects pushing for completion before summer or previews for summer events like the Ocean Festival in San Clemente or the Summer Concert Series for Dana Point of San Juan.

I had been up until late, or rather early in the a.m. shooting grad nite for the first class of San Juan Hills High School; the event with its super secret location took place at a golf course in San Clemente and went on all night although I left around 3 a.m. after the break dancers made their appearence.

I was up getting the shots cropped and captioned when I got a tip about  a jewelry heist gone wrong at the Costco Plaza in the Capo Beach area where San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point meet.  It seemed that two of the alledged assailants were down and another had escaped.  With great effort I finished my shots and got them into the photo desk and was out the door 15 minutes later for the 6 or 7 mile drive to Monaco Jewelers.

The scene of the crime.

I went back streets pulling into a spot where I knew it was safe to park and yet I would not be too far away.  Several dozen Costco employees milled about in small groups on the safe side of yellow crime scene tape.  A few Orange County Sheriff deputies were here and there, armed with shotguns and AR-15’s, the cousin of the M-16, I knew it was serious enough.  Slipping under the tape, I got through after checking my press pass, the large parking lot normally filled with cars and people, held only a small percentage of what should have been a busy morning before the first real weekend of the summer.

OCSD was thick on scene.

I quickly got some preliminary shots before meeting up with a Channel 9 cameraman that had just got hold of a guy whose wife, according to him, worked at the jewelry store and was still inside the store, getting de-briefed by investigators.  He held up his phone with text messages they had exchanged before the OCSD shut them down; thankfully she was okay but shaken up.  Apparently, several robbers had entered the store and were shot by someone affiliated with the store and they were dead and OSCD had now surrounded the Costco with the belief that a third robber had run in to escape.  Across the parking lot I could see several deputies covering the doors, while others massed a few feet away with what looked like to me, preparation for a push inside.

Most likely not his grocery list.

We didn’t get much further as the OCSD began an organized sweep to get the press out and I could not escape; fortunately I had all my shots.  Another OC Register shooter, Ken Steinhardt, had arrived and so I left to get my shots into the desk.  The OCSD worked on locating the third man for several more hours before determining that he had escaped in the first minutes with a get away driver.  Later in the day, investigators confirmed two dead in the store.  Sam Gangwer stayed into the afternoon to get shots of the medical examiner removing the bodies.  It was interesting to see how many deputies were on scene in the relaxed dress of what must have been their day off but got called in as back up for the man hunt and as has been my experience with sheriff deputies in general they were serious and calm and I was able to get my work done with very little interference.

This appears to be the second incident in a year for Monaco Jewelers as they were robbed over a long weekend last summer when thieves dug in, opened the safe, getting away with almost 6 million dollars in gold.  Ouch.

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