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South Los Angeles store clerk killed in shooting; gunman at large

Martha Sanchez, 39, was shot and killed at a South Los Angeles discount store on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.
September 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A search is underway for the gunman who killed a clerk during a robbery-gone-bad at a South Los Angeles discount store.

Authorities believe the shooting occurred at about 8 p.m. Tuesday and began as a robbery. Investigators say a customer entered the Happy Bargain 99 Cent Store at 74th Street and Broadway shortly after 9 p.m. and found the clerk lying on the floor, wounded from multiple gunshot wounds.

The customer alerted authorities and the clerk was rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was identified as 39-year-old Martha Sanchez, a mother of five. Her children range from 3 to 19 years old.

Area residents watched the desperate fight to save her life.

"They pulled her out. They were giving her CPR two times and nothing happened," described witness Stephanie Bravo."They tried to raise her hand, but her strength was gone."

Sanchez's family held an emotional news conference on Wednesday. The victim's husband said he and his wife were married for 20 years. Sanchez was described as a loving mother who was always there for her children, motivating them.

"My mother was very hard working. Everything she did in life was to give me, my sisters, my baby brother a good future," said Gabriella Sanchez, the victim's daughter. "She always told us, 'Don't worry, I'm here. All you guys have to worry about is school. Worry about getting a better education. Worry about getting a better life.'"

Gabriella Sanchez said her mother was her role model and best friend.

"She spent her whole life working. I've seen her since I was little getting home late, tired, exhausted, and she'll still put a smile on her face. She'll make us laugh," the victim's daughter said through tears. "She was everything to me, and now she's gone and it's not fair that this man took her away from us."

Investigators described the suspect as an African American male in his 30s. The suspect was caught on surveillance video by multiple cameras, but the video has not been released. Investigators did not say how much money was stolen.

Police do not believe Sanchez tried to resist the suspect, and they don't have a motive for the murder. Meantime, residents who shopped at the discount store and knew Sanchez well are having trouble understanding what appears to be a senseless crime.

"Why would they do that? You could have just, if anything, scared the lady. She's a little lady," said Lamar Wilson of South Los Angeles. "Turn yourself in. I don't care if you're black, white, whoever. Turn yourself in. I don't care if I know you."

Residents admit the area does have its problems, but the store is just three blocks away from the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street headquarters building. The suspect, who was last seen running south, could have run right by the station to make his escape.

Authorities are scouring the neighborhood for witnesses. If you have any information about this incident, you're urged to contact the LAPD's 77th Division at (213) 485-4164. You can also call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

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