STOCKTON (CBS13) – Hundreds of Stockton citizens have been victimized by gold chain thieves this year, but Monday was the first time someone was killed during such a robbery, according to police.
Stockton Police officers responded to Victory Park on N. Pershing Avenue shortly after 3 p.m. on a report of a person shot. When officers arrived, the victim told the officers that he had just been robbed of his gold chain.
Armando Pina, 60, was transported to a local area hospital where he died from his injuries. He is the 49th homicide victim in the city this year.
The attack happened during broad daylight in the busy park – one of seven gold chain attacks in a few hours Monday, but the first to turn deadly.
Flowers and a special note that reads “I love you grandpa, RIP” marked the spot where Pina was shot and killed in the latest gold chain robbery attack plaguing the city.
A vigil for Pina was held for Tuesday night.
“He’d just bend over backwards to help anybody out,” his daughter Anita said during the vigil. “And take away not only a father, but a grandpa and a friend. He was just a loving person who didn’t deserve this at all.”
Kevin Johnson was at Victory Park Monday afternoon and noticed Pina sitting on a bench moments before at least one gunman opened fire.
“I heard a pop,” he said. “I stayed low for a minute. It gave me goosebumps. I just passed him up not even five minutes before. I’m like ‘wow.’”
Witnesses described the assailants as two dark-skinned male suspects in their late teens wearing hooded sweatshirts. The suspects were last seen running south on Columbia Avenue and then east on Poplar Street toward Pershing Avenue.
Police say Pina was walking in the park as he did most days when the pair of armed robbers demanded his gold chain jewelry, then shot and killed the grandfather.
Detectives say the retired city of Stockton employee even had a gun on him but never got a chance to pull the trigger.
“It was a very malicious attack on an innocent person who was just exercising,” Officer Joe Silva said.
The gold chain robbery trend picked up in March and since then there have been 205 attacks.
No one is off limits: not children, the elderly or disabled. Victims’ ages have ranged from 5 to 78. And with Pina’s murder, the crime wave has now turned deadly.
Detectives have arrested 21 suspects in previous gold chain robberies, but because the crimes are spread out, it’s challenging for officers to immediately track down the bad guys.
“When we go to one area, another one pops up on the other side of town,” Silva said.
Police urge people to leave their precious metal at home, a move Johnson says he will now do.
“I’m taking this (his ring) off today,” he said.