Community reeling after third San Jacinto valley murder in four days

SAN JACINTO — A popular and much beloved clerk at a San Jacinto smoke shop was fatally gunned down during an apparent robbery last night, Wednesday, Oct. 9. The deadly shooting, which happened at Top Smoke Shop on the 2300 block of South San Jacinto Ave, was the third homicide to rock the San Jacinto Valley in the last four days.

The earlier two shooting deaths happened at a Hemet motel last Saturday, Oct. 5, followed by another deadly shooting involving a Hemet father and son during a family disturbance three days later, Tuesday, Oct. 8.

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Deputies assigned to the San Jacinto Sheriff’s Station responded to the smoke shop inside San Jacinto’s Patio Plaza about 7:39 p.m., after a citizen called 911 to report a possible robbery in progress, Riverside Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Vasquez told RCNS in a phone interview a few hours after the deadly incident.

When deputies arrived they “located an adult male employee who suffered an apparent gunshot wound,” Riverside Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit Sgt. Wallace Clear later explained.

Sheriff’s officials survey the scene and discuss the fatal shooting of a popular and well known clerk who was fatally shot during a robbery of Top Smoke Shop in San Jacinto. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

Deputies immediately began life-saving efforts and performed CPR on the victim until paramedics arrived, according to Vasquez and Wallace.

“Despite paramedics’ efforts, the victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene,” Wallace reported.

Although the victim’s name has not yet been publicly released, witnesses at the scene reported the man killed was known to all those who knew and loved him as “Mike.”

As a sheriff’s helicopter circled overhead searching for potential suspects, deputies began cordoning off the area with crime-scene tape and began investigating the fatal robbery and shooting.

Based on the circumstances, deputies requested Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit and San Jacinto Sheriff’s Station investigators to the scene and they ultimately assumed the homicide investigation.

Over the next several hours a mobile command center was brought to the location and technicians from the department’s Forensic Services Unit could be seen searching for, photographing, and collecting potential evidence related to the robbery and murder.

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Officials are now scouring security footage from cameras at the smoke shop and other nearby businesses, and are hoping the footage will help them identify the person or persons responsible for the robbery and homicide.

Officials have not released any suspect information and have said that due to the ongoing investigation, no further information will be released at this time. 

A source close to the investigation who last night had the opportunity to view security footage from the incident said the store’s security cameras captured footage of two masked men entering the store while armed with a shotgun. The shotgun wielding pair then attempted to rob the business; but during an ensuing scuffle outside the store, one of the robbers shot the victim in the chest.

Friends, family, and area residents who knew and loved the victim have been visiting the smoke shop’s storefront since learning of the clerk’s fatal shooting during an armed robbery. A candlelight vigil has been planned for this evening at 7 p.m. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

A candlelight vigil for the victim will be hosted by Hemet News outside the front of the business tonight at 7 p.m. All from the community and those who knew the victim are invited to attend.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact immediately Central Homicide Investigator Navarrete at (951) 955-2777, or Hemet Station Investigator Vasquez at (951) 791-3400. Callers can refer to incident file number I192820093 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s Homicide Tipline online form.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.


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Eddie George/Hemet News photos

Eddie George/Hemet News video
Eddie George/Hemet News video

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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