Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Incident at Alpha Beta Supermarket, Feb. 22, 1983

Alpha Beta store No. 194 at 23640 W. Lyons Ave. Photo from "The Alpha Beta Story: An Illustrated History of A Leading Western Food Retailer" by Esther R Cramer, self-published (by Alpha Beta), 1973. Click image to enlarge.

Feb. 22, 1983. It was not unlike any other day. I walked through the rear door of the Newhall Sheriff's Station to put in my eight hours as a deputy sheriff patrolling the streets of the fast growing Santa Clarita Valley in the northern part of Los Angeles County.

BUT! After going on duty and a long pursuit:

He had a 300-foot lead on my patrol unit as he slid his car to a stop right in the front door of the supermarket, missing it by 12 feet.

The Alpha Beta market* was crowded with late-afternoon shoppers. He jumped out of the car and ran inside.

I knew he was going to try to take hostages, but I was not going to give him that much time.

I threw the transmission of my patrol car into park while we were still moving, smashed the emergency brake to the floor, and jumped out before it stopped rolling.

With my service revolver in hand I ran into the market right behind the suspect, while my stuttering partner was still sliding to a stop in a driverless car with the radio mike still in his hand.

The gunman saw me come through the door with my six-inch Colt Trooper in hand as he crashed through the checkout stand, waving his rifle and yelling for people to get out of his way.

He grabbed a pretty blond lady shopper by the hair with his right hand as he jammed the rifle into her neck and yelled, "Drop your gun or I blow the ******* bitch's head off."

I had trained for this exact situation and knew that if a suspect gave me at least half a head shot from behind the hostage, I would take him out with a shot to the head.

He made that fatal mistake and stood so that his entire head was exposed for a shot from less than 30 feet.

Holding my Colt steady with both hands, I fired all six rounds.

It was as if the whole thing was in super-slow motion. I watched as the first bullet left my gun and struck the suspect in the right cheek, exiting at the rear of his head.

The impact caused him to jerk to his left, throwing his hostage to the floor face-down. The gunman's rifle also started moving to his left toward me as I fired the second shot and watched it strike him in the upper torso. The third shot struck him in the right rib cage, exiting his back, and struck a display of Pepsi cans behind him, causing some of them to explode.

The fourth and fifth shots struck him in the buttock as he was falling to the floor, facing away from me, and the sixth shot struck him in the left leg just below the buttock.

The shooting seemed like it took an eternity, but in fact it was less than three seconds.

My mind returned to normal speed as I ran across the floor to the suspect and grabbed the rifle that was still clutched in his hand. I turned to look back toward the front door and was surprised that there were no other cops inside the store with me.

I yelled out toward the door, "It's Code 4, suspect in custody."

I saw two deputies and two of our detectives come running inside to assist me, but none was my partner. Damn, I thought. Beans would never let me go in alone. He would have been there to back me up.

The gunman, who was still alive but bleeding badly, rolled over, looked at me and said, "I know you."

It was then that I recognized him as Ricky Lee, a 23-year-old petty crook I had known since he was 16 years old because he used to burglarize lockers and cars at the local high school.

Deputy "Spermwhale" Jim Curtis quickly put the handcuffs on the gunman, which is department policy for all suspects, alive, wounded or dead.

Within minutes the Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics were in the market, tending to the mortally wounded gunman.

* The incident occurred at Alpha Beta store No. 194, 23640 Lyons Ave., Newhall, California.

Capt. Dan McCarty retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 1984 and now lives on a ranch in Cherokee, Calif., an 1850s gold town off Highway 70 in Butte County.



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Alpha Beta 1983


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