CHULA VISTA, Calif. — An off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent opened fire at a South Bay strip mall Tuesday on a car occupied by an alleged shoplifter, after which the suspect and a cohort sped off and escaped into the surrounding neighborhood, authorities reported.
The events that led to the shooting began shortly after 11 a.m., when employees at a Rite Aid store in the 500 block of Telegraph Canyon Road in Chula Vista saw a man walk out of the business with merchandise — a tablet- style computer — that he had not purchased, according to police.
Two clerks followed the suspected thief into an adjacent parking lot, where he got into a large late-model sedan occupied by a second man, Lt. Phil Collum said. The federal officer, meanwhile, somehow became aware of what was going on and decided to intervene.
Moments later, the lawman, who was not in uniform, pulled a pistol and fired at least two rounds at the dark-colored car, which then sped away to the west. Officers searched in vain for the sedan and the suspects by ground and aboard a police helicopter.
Investigators found no evidence that the gunfire had injured anyone, though they suspected that at least one bullet struck the vehicle, variously described as a Lincoln Continental or Town Car, or a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the lieutenant said.
One witness said he saw a woman and child in the back seat of the vehicle ad the suspect got into the getaway car.
“He hopped into his car and the officer pointed a gun at him and told him to get out and then he put it in reverse and pulled up and went forward. And that’s when I saw the shots fired,” said Robert Taylor of Chula Vista.
Witnesses said the suspected shoplifter was a roughly 5-foot-4-inch man wearing dark pants and a white shirt.
The government agent, whose name was withheld, remained at the scene and was being questioned by detectives. His exact rationale for firing on the suspect remained under investigation in the late afternoon, according to Collum.
A spokesman for the Border Patrol declined to comment on the shooting, referring all questions to Chula Vista police.