Security guard killed in San Jose shooting remembered

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) --Friends of a San Jose security guard killed on the job Saturday night said Manuel Zuniga should never have died over stolen tobacco.

"He's our supervisor, he's a leader," a tearful colleague Carlos Gutierrez told KTVU, at the strip mall where Zuniga worked at the BBoss restaurant and nightclub.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday night, Zuniga was manning the door when he was shot to death during an altercation with robbers at a liquor store just steps away.

Hearing several shots, co-workers inside the club ran outside.

"I was the one next to him. I was doing CPR," said Gutierrez. " I saw his eyes open looking at me, so I thought he was going to be fine."

Paramedics arrived and took over.

"Everybody was happy like hurray, he's going to make it, " added Gutierrez, but 35-year-old Zuniga died at the hospital.

Word spread throughout the day and evening Sunday, and people streamed to the mall at North Capitol and McKee in East San Jose.

They lit candles and laid bouquets of flowers on the pavement. Some hugged each other and wept.

Witnesses said Zuniga noticed the commotion next door, and rushed in as a robber rushed out; then someone in a waiting car opened fire.

"I want to know why; the reason. Why did they do it?" store clerk Sonny Gia exclaimed to KTVU at the liquor store register.

Gia said the encounter was captured on store surveillance video, which is in the hands of San Jose Police. He was emphatic that everyone in his store knows no merchandise is worth a life.

"They can steal, okay?" he said, distressed. "Here's money, you want it? You can take it, you know?"

Gia says the robber already had what he wanted, about $20 worth of Swishers cigars he had grabbed from the counter, when he encountered Zuniga.

"Manny, he's a good guy, he let them go already, so why turn around and shoot him?" added Gia.

Regular shoppers in the East San Jose plaza said Zuniga was a familiar figure, friendly and helpful to all.

"He was just trying to do his job you know," reflected Tino Angula. "He always tried to keep the peace. And I saw him give food to homeless people around here too. He talked to everybody."

Zuniga's colleagues knew his outgoing personality better than anyone.

"I would go inside the store and buy him chocolate," remembered Gutierrez. "And he would sit in his chair, smoke and eat his chocolate, so happy."

Gutierrez says he and the half-dozen other guards Zuniga helped train won't be scared off their jobs.

"It makes me want to stay here," he said with emotion in his voice. "He always watched our backs, so I want to follow his steps."

The BBoss club had a brush with the law last year, after undercover agents found underage drinking, nudity and lap dancing on the premises.

The club's liquor license was suspended, and it and closed for one month.

There is no indication that Zuniga's killer was a club patron, or that there was a personal dispute between them, but San Jose Police are saying almost nothing about the investigation.