South LA neighborhood in the aftermath of the Martha Sanchez shooting

Photo courtesy: Sinduja Rangarajan

Photo Credit: Sinduja Rangarajan

Brenda Ramirez and her husband had finished work and were driving home when they saw police and a crowd gathered around a South Los Angeles discount store a block away from their upholstery shop.

Enrique Espino, a high school student, was sitting on his couch watching TV when he heard his neighbors run out of their homes. Eva Alvarez, who was working in her bail bond store, saw an ambulance on her store’s surveillance camera and sprinted towards the shop across the street.

Their neighbor, Martha Sanchez, had been shot.

Sanchez was working as a store clerk at a local Happy Bargain 99 Cents Store on the 7400 block of South Broadway around at 8:50 p.m. on Sept.17 when a man “walked into the store, robbed it and shot Sanchez numerous times,” according to a Los Angeles Police Department press release. The incident happened just a few blocks away from the LAPD’s 77th Street Community Police Station.

The Los Angeles Fire Department transported Sanchez to a local hospital, where she died, said the statement. The 39-year-old Sanchez was the mother of five children aged 3 to 19, according to police.

Alvarez, who owns Eva’s Bail Bonds store across the street, said she was outside the discount store when she heard that Sanchez had died. Alvarez said that she and her husband were longtime friends with Sanchez.

“It was an emotional moment for us,” she said.

Espino, who sat at his uncle’s clothing store, El Changarro, was Sanchez’s next-door neighbor. The 18-year-old said he remembered Sanchez as a friendly woman who sometimes allowed him to take things from the store without asking him to pay.

“It feels terrible,” he said. “She had five kids… and now they just have their father.”

LAPD officials held a news conference on Oct.23 to release a surveillance video of the suspect walking out of the store and ask for public support to help identify and locate the suspect.

SEE ALSO: Suspect named in South LA 99 Cent store clerk murder

LAPD Detective Eric Crosson, who is investigating the case, said Sanchez did not resist the robbers. Several store owners and workers in the Florence neighborhood said this was one of the saddest aspects of the crime.

“They could have left her alone,” said Jesse Perez, who works at Durango Avelino’s Tours, a block from the store where Sanchez worked. “They already had the money.”

The number of homicides in the 77th Street area has fallen by 22 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to LAPD statistics. But residents and shop owners said they don’t feel as safe as they used to.

“You can’t even walk around here no more after dark or anything, because you don’t know if someone is going to jack you,” Perez said.

Perez and other workers in the community were especially concerned because the incident happened so close to the police station.

“I think the police station is right there, they should do something,” Perez said. “They are just two blocks away and look what happened…. People don’t even care about the cops no more.”

Ramirez, the upholstery owner, said that LAPD officials have been more involved with the community since the shooting, but still have more to do.

“They need to do something because there are a lot of bad guys here all the time,” she said. “Sometimes we have to work until late…but we have to close the door, because (they are) right here yelling, drinking.”

LAPD officials were not available to comment on their plans to keep the neighborhood safe.

Alvarez said she organized a carwash and a concert fundraiser to help Sanchez’s children, and that community members had raised between $14,000 and $16,000.

Espino became emotional when he spoke about Sanchez.

“It’s kinda hard to say but…we just gotta keep going,” he said.

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