Neighbors, friends grieve shooting death of store clerk

Children light candle for crime victim

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Two children try to light a candle at a memorial for Martha Sanchez, a store clerk who died Tuesday night during a robbery. Many of the parents and children in the area said they knew Sanchez.

Friends of a South Los Angeles store clerk who was killed Tuesday night during a robbery left candles and flowers at the business, catching the eye of children as they walked home from a nearby elementary school.

“She was my mom’s friend,” said one young girl.

The clerk, Martha Sanchez, 39, would allow the children and parents walking to and from school to fill up their water bottles at the Happy Bargain 99 Cents store.

“They’re so used to going to store and getting snacks,” said Lilly Grayson, who said she has known Sanchez for 9 years. “Now they’re asking why is her car still there and what happened.”

The store, at the corner of 74th and Broadway, was robbed at 8:50 p.m. Tuesday. The gunman shot Sanchez fatally in the chest. The reason why is still unknown.

"It doesn't appear that Mrs. Sanchez put up any kind of struggle or resisted the suspect in any way,” said LAPD Detective Eric Crosson. “We don't really know what the motive is for the shooting at this point.”

Police said the gunman fled on foot with some cash around 9 p.m. Officers are still looking for witnesses.

Neighborhood residents and friends of the victim said someone must have seen something. They said the business has a few surveillance cameras inside and outside the entrance.

Neighbor Evelyn Morales, a mother of four,  said she visited the store around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, as Sanchez was preparing to close up.

“A lot of people were still walking around here,” Morales said. “They must have seen something.”

Friends said Sanchez was married, a mother of five children, ages three to 19 years old.

Many local residents stopped at the memorial Wednesday afternoon, some speaking a few words to each other in Spanish before moving on.

Some allowed their children to light candles that had been extinguished by the breeze.

“I hate when they leave that crime scene tape,” said Grayson, Sanchez's friend and a neighborhood resident of 14 years, as she yanked it off the business' parking gate. “Then the kids ask questions about it.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of the incident as a 99 Cents Only store. The incident occurred at the Happy Bargain 99 Cents store, and the story has been updated accordingly.

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