A gun-toting man in camouflage walked into a Moreno Valley Wal-Mart Monday, Dec. 24, triggering an evacuation and a search, according to officials.
He entered the store, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, located in the 12700 block of Moreno Beach Drive, at 5:57 a.m. and walked to the back of the store and asked to speak to a manager, according to sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Morales.
“Some eyewitnesses are saying he was carrying an M16 assault rifle or maybe a shotgun,” he said. Carrying an M16 is illegal, according to Morales.
The suspect fled through the store’s back door, Morales said, though it’s unknown whether he talked to a manager. What made the man flee is unknown.
The store was evacuated, and a sheriff’s helicopter and investigators were on the scene more than two hours later guarding a perimeter and searching for the suspect.
“We don’t know yet if it was a hunter looking for some ammunition,” Morales said.
No shots were fired, nobody was injured, no merchandise was taken and officials are unsure whether the guns were real or replicas. But, “It’s absolutely some suspicious circumstances,” the deputy said.
As of 9 a.m., people were still inside the store and nobody was allowed to enter, which put a damper on some last-minute Christmas shoppers.
“I got to do some shopping for my kid and it’s holding up my day,” said Clemente Baez, a 29-year-old Moreno Valley resident who waited outside the store for more than an hour to enter.
Around 9:15 a.m. employees started filing out the side door one or two at a time, and around 10 a.m., Wal-Mart employees were being let into the store and an employee told customers it would be another 45 minutes before they could enter and store.
Staff photographer Kurt Miller contributed to this report.