A transaction at a jewelry store in San Diego’s El Cajon area turned violent when an angry customer allegedly attacked the store owner with a hatchet after his credit card was denied, officials confirmed.
The El Cajon Police Department said the assault happened around 3:30 p.m. at Hamlin’s Jewelers, located at 2234 Fletcher Pkwy. in the quiet community of Fletcher Hills.
Officers were called to investigate reports of a possible robbery at the store.
When police arrived on scene, they discovered the owner of the business suffering from multiple head wounds.
The victim told police that a credit card transaction had been taking place between him and the assault suspect. When suspect’s credit card was denied, the victim said the man became angry and violent.
The victim said the man brandished a hatchet that had a hammer head on one of its ends. He then allegedly struck the victim numerous times on the head with the hammer portion of the hatchet.
The victim fell behind the counter after the blows, police said. In self-defense, he pulled out a small caliber handgun and pointed it at the suspect.
At that point, the pair began fighting again as the suspect tried to grab the victim’s gun.
Police said the suspect was able to wrestle the gun away from the store owner. The suspect then fled from the store on foot before officers could arrive. He was last seen getting into a tan-colored Toyota 4-Runner, driving west on Fletcher Pkwy.
According to police, the suspect’s vehicle may have had a possible partial license plate of 4XU245.
The injured victim was transported to a local hospital. As of 6:30 p.m., police said the victim was in good condition and expected to make a full recovery. He may be released from the hospital as early as Wednesday night.
Police described the suspect as a man in his 20s with a thin build and a slight beard. He wore a black shirt and dark pants during the incident.
Investigators said the only item stolen was the handgun. No jewelry was taken from the store.
The El Cajon Police Department said the suspect is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who spots the suspect or his aforementioned getaway vehicle should call 911 and the El Cajon Police Department at (619) 579-3311.
Police did not release the name of the victim. A neighboring shop owner who heard the commotion and saw the suspect running across the parking lot following the assault said the victim is Hamlin Jewelers owner, Carl Hamlin.
The witness said Hamlin was visibly injured and was taken away by medics while strapped to a gurney, with bloodied gauze and bandages covering his head.
"I know he was banged up pretty good," the witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told NBC 7. "He had blood all over his head. He didn't look too good; he was bleeding out of his eye."
Still, witnesses said the victim was talking and coherent.
The neighboring shop owner showed NBC 7 surveillance video of the suspect quickly running away from the jewelry store. The witness said he noticed the suspect was armed with some sort of hatchet.
The assault remains under investigation. Check back for updates on this developing story.