Wal-Mart customers shocked at baseball bat beating death
A day after a homeless man allegedly used an aluminum baseball bat inside the sporting goods section at a Wal-Mart store in Lakewood to fatally beat a 74-year-old man, a sense of normality returned to the aisles and checkout counters as the store reopened Wednesday.
Even so, it was hard to avoid the subject at the location where 11 columns of bright aluminum and wooden bats dangled from a rack below rows of baseballs gloves in that aisle.
"This is where it happened?" one shopper asked a man unpacking merchandise. The employee simply nodded.
Some customers said they were shocked about the brutal beating inside the store Tuesday. Others shrugged it off as a rare incident that would not affect their shopping habits.
Carla Warrington, 57, and Nathaniel McCoy, 51, said what happened at the store was not only tragic, but another reason why they will be happy to be moving Thursday to a small town outside Las Vegas.
"I'm sure stuff happens there too, but not like this," Warrington said.
The store, which is usually open 24 hours, was closed overnight for the investigation and reopened about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. In a statement, Wal-Mart expressed its "deepest condolences" to the victim's family. Authorities have not yet released his identity or that of the suspect.
"We are working closely with law enforcement to offer what information we have such as surveillance video that might help with the investigation."
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigators said the video shows that the assailant was already in the store and had been wandering the aisles for a short time before the victim entered the sporting good area.
The assailant then took a baseball bat from the sporting goods section and walked up and down the aisles before spotting the victim as he was looking at an item.
"The victim was completely oblivious to what was going on," said sheriff's Lt. Ed Hernandez.
Sheriff's officials said they are looking to see if local law enforcement or Wal-Mart security had previous contacts with the suspect, who reportedly was described as a transient or panhandler.
-- Ruben Vives in Lakewood and Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles
Photo: A Wal-Mart store in Lakewood was the site of a fatal baseball bat attack.
Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5