ALAMEDA, Calif. (KTVU) - An Alameda store clerk was arrested on suspicion of murder for allegedly shooting a suspected thief without legal cause, police said Monday.
It happened at a Circle K store at Webster Street and Buena Vista Avenue at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday.
"The customer went behind the counter and started to remove items," said Alameda police Lt. Ryan DeRespini.
In response, police say the clerk pulled out a semiautomatic pistol and shot him in the head.
"And that point it appeared to be simply an attempt to steal merchandise from the store," DeRespini said. "At that point, he was accosted by the store clerk and almost immediately shot and killed where he was."
The clerk called 911, saying he had shot a robbery suspect. But after talking to witnesses and reviewing surveillance video, police say there was no holdup and that the clerk had crossed the line by killing 24-year-old Ethan Escorcio.
"It was determined that a robbery had not occurred and that that level of self-defense was not justified or appropriate for the crime that was actually occurring," DeRespini said.
The clerk, 26-year-old Wenyong Huang, was arrested on suspicion of murder. He is being held without bail.
Huang was also booked on suspicion of having a concealed firearm on his person.
"He did not have a CCW[carrying concealed weapon] permit," DeRespini said.
Police said crime victims shouldn't take matters into their own hands.
"If there is something occurring, of a criminal nature inside your business, call 911 to report it in progress, and try not to intervene under any circumstances. Let the police get there and do their job," DeRespini said.
KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza said, "There is video, so the video will be very telling in this case."
Cardoza said the video - and any testimony by the clerk - will be critical if the case goes to trial.
"You have a clerk working who obviously got awfully nervous and I'm sure would tell the police that he thought that his life was in danger," Cardoz said.
But on the other hand, clerks "can't willy nilly shoot people," Cardoza said. "They have to step back and weigh in their own mind, 'Should I shoot this person? Do I feel my life's in danger?' "
Cardoza says this case should be a warning for criminals.
"You're assuming the risk in a sense that somebody might take action against you and maybe would take your life," he said.