FRESNO, California (KSEE) – We are learning more about three masked robbers, two who were killed after trying to rob a Fresno smoke shop.
The hunt is on for the third suspect, who escaped from the crime scene Friday night, near Blackstone and McKinley Avenues.
Police say the three masked robbers could be tied to similar hold-ups, one happening a week before Friday’s shooting, at a smoke shop near Maple and Tulare Avenue.
Officers say that robbery fits the same description.
On Monday, the Smoke-N-Vape shop near Fresno City College on Blackstone, was closed, even though it’s Monday during business hours.
The door was locked and the open sign light was turned off. A small makeshift memorial sits outside the shop, along with words we had to blur written on the shop’s wall in marker, they appeared to be threats.
It’s unclear if the shop’s owner closed after Friday night’s robbery turned deadly.
The Fresno Police say 22-year-old Chris Casas, 18-year-old Jesus Gonzales, and a third person were all wearing masks, dark clothing and hoodies, when police say they walked into the shop ready to rob it.
Police say at least one was armed with a handgun.
“The suspect who was seen with the handgun put the clerk who was working inside the store down on the ground and at that point, the other two suspects took money from the till of the register,” says Lt. Larry Bowlan with the Fresno Police Department.
Police say the owner of the store was returning to lock up when he noticed what was going on.
“At that time he then retrieved a firearm which is owned by him and legally possessed and walked up to the store, the three suspects were coming out at the same time and at this point based on the evidence at the scene it has been determined that the suspects fired at the store owner and he returned fire with his own handgun,” Bowlan explained.
Police say two of the three suspects, Casas and Gonzales, were shot and died later at a hospital.
But two questions asked that many were wondering, the first if there was anything illegal at the shop. The narcotics detectives searched and found nothing.
The second, was if the owner was in the right to shoot, so far police say all signs point to self-defense.
“The reality of it is if you’re being shot at you have the right in this state to defend yourself,” says Bowlan.
Officials have confirmed that Casas was arrested earlier this year.
Police are asking if anyone has information on the third suspect to give them a call at 559.621.700