SAN DIEGO >> A private security guard fatally shot a suspect in a smash-and-grab burglary at an Apple store early Monday in what police said was the latest attempt to steal prized electronic gear from the high-end retailer.
Two other suspects were arrested after the driver of the getaway car died from his head wound and the car crashed. The driver’s name was not immediately released.
The two passengers ran into a neighborhood, where police locked down schools for about an hour before the man and woman were found in the courtyard of a condominium complex in Chula Vista.
They were identified as Johnny Chenda, 25, and Melissa Ortiz, 21, and both had prior criminal records, police said.
Chenda is a suspected gang member and convicted felon. He and Ortiz were arrested on suspicion of robbery and other crimes and remained jailed Tuesday, according to the San Diego County sheriff’s jail website.
Thieves using everything from sledgehammers to rocks have smashed the glass doors and windows of Apple stores across the country, stealing tens of thousands of dollars in high-tech gear in seconds.
Many of the stores have been hit more than once in only a few months. Some have turned to armed guards such as the one in Chula Vista, after unarmed security failed to intervene when thieves flashed guns.
Chula Vista police investigator Capt. Gary Ficacci said he believes Monday’s break-in was the first time someone was killed during an Apple store burglary.
Amy Barney, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment, saying local police would be the best source of information.
In Monday’s theft, the unidentified armed guard was sitting in his unmarked SUV when three people pulled up to the store just before 7 a.m., Chula Vista police Chief David Bejarano said.
A woman stayed in the car while two men smashed the store window and went on a free-for-all before the guard — a former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy — confronted them.
The guard opened fire inside the store after one man pulled a gun and fired at him, according to a police statement. The store manager took cover during the shooting.
The trio fled in the car but quickly crashed into a nearby light pole, where the driver died from a gunshot wound to the head, Bejarano said. The two others ran away.
Footage from surveillance cameras that captured several Apple burglaries have been posted on YouTube.com and show thieves sprinting into stores and scooping up MacBook Pros that cost as much as $2,500 each.
In Chula Vista, authorities said they were trying to determine if the break-in was connected to any other Apple store burglaries.