Police are searching for a gunman who walked into a Church's Chicken restaurant in Otay Mesa Wednesday evening and shot three employees, killing one of them.
The man walked into the Church's Chicken on Del Sol Boulevard near Picador Boulevard at around 5:35 p.m., opened fire and fled the scene.
"He was just booking it. He was out that door as fast as he could get out of it," said David Walker, who was sitting in a car outside the restaurant when he heard gunfire.
Witnesses described hearing a firecracker-like sound, a brief pause and about three more shots. The suspect's gunfire appeared to be directed at the employees and not at any customers inside, SDPD Captain Tom Underwood said.
Three people were struck.
Walker said he saw a bleeding man who appeared to be in his 50s come out the back door and fall to the ground. He had two gunshots to his upper arm area, Walker said.
Two people were transported to Scripps Mercy Hospital and a third was taken to UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest.
Less than an hour after the shooting, SDPD confirmed that one of the victims had died. The other two victims were in "stable" condition, according to Underwood.
The shooting occurred after an argument between employees and the suspect, which began when the suspect reportedly tried to pay with a counterfeit $100 bill. The suspect came back minutes later and shot at the employees from across the counter, SDPD Officer John Buttle said.
The suspect was described by police as a thin man in his 30s, about 6 feet tall, wearing a light blue sweater, red sunglasses and a Chargers beanie.
He was last seen driving north on Picador Boulevard, possibly in a dark blue sedan, Captain Underwood said. Police released a blurry photo of the vehicle late Wednesday as they searched for the suspect.
A woman who came to the scene following the shooting told Telemundo 20 her daughter, 30-year-old Maribel Ibañez, was the one who was killed.
A family friend identified the two injured victims as Mario Rojas, who is around 50 years old, and Humberto Ruiz, who is around 40 years old.
Witness Marco Truvino said he confronted the suspect in the parking lot prior to the shooting because the suspect was parked in two stalls.
"I told him, 'Hey, guy. You think the parking is only for you? It's for everybody, man.' So he came out, he turned [his car] on, and parked it right," Truvino said.
Truvino went inside the restaurant to eat and overheard the suspect arguing with the cashier, but left the restaurant before the shooting happened.
Another witness named José said he was filling water jugs at the 7-Eleven next door when heard gunfire erupt.
"I look around and that’s when I see the person firing inside the Church’s Chicken. He’s standing right behind the register firing at the employees,” José said.
After seeing the suspect drive away, José ran to the restaurant and looked through the drive-thru window and saw an employee with blood on their shirt.
NBC 7 reached out to Church's Chicken. They sent the following statement:
"We are saddened and shocked by this violence against our employees and are committed to working with the authorities to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice. In the meantime, our sole focus is on supporting and comforting the victims, their families and our extended Church's family."
Anyone with information is asked to call the SDPD Homicide Unit at (619)531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888)580-8477.
No other information was available.
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