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Kmart suspect grabbed gun after being handcuffed, shooting two officers, police say

July 2, 2010 |  5:53 pm

K-Mart customers are let out of the store after two Burbank 
officers were shot during an arrest investigation.

The routine arrest of a shoplifting suspect at a Kmart in Burbank went badly awry Friday when the man grabbed a gun and shot two police officers, bouncing three shots off one officer’s bullet-proof vest before being subdued, authorities said.

Neither of the Burbank Police officers suffered life-threatening injuries in the shooting, which broke the quiet of a routine lunchtime as shoppers prepared for the holiday weekend. Authorities did not immediately identify the suspect or the officers, one of whom underwent surgery after being shot in the hand and leg.

One witness to the shooting, Burbank resident Joseph Hoage, said he had just walked out of the Kmart store at 1000 N. San Fernando Blvd. when he saw a handcuffed man with two police officers. 

Suddenly, he said, he heard someone say, “He’s got a gun!” Hoage said he dove behind a car and heard four or five shots fired. When he looked up, one of the officers was holding his right hand, which was bleeding profusely. The other officer was struggling with the suspect, wrestling until he finally pinned him down. Hoage said the second officer emptied his Taser weapon in the struggle, but that didn't immediately subdue the suspect.

Another witness, Frank Galuppo, 50, of Burbank, said he saw the first officer stagger backwards, and the second officer struggle with the alleged gunman. Galuppo, who owns a nearby Curves Fitness center, said the suspect was wrestled to the ground and then shot with the Taser.

A Burbank police spokesman, Sgt. Robert Quesada, confirmed that a Taser was used, although he could not say who fired it. He said the second officer is the one who was shot three times in the chest, with the impact absorbed and deflected by his vest. That officer also sustained a minor gunshot wound to his leg, for which he was treated at a hospital and released. “If he was shot, he's a pretty brave guy,” said Hoage. “He never stopped fighting.”

--Sam Allen and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Burbank Leader