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Eyewitnesses describe terrifying scene during Nipomo active shooting incident

Nipomo Shooting
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies respond to active shooting incident in NIpomo Friday morning. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

NIPOMO, Calif. -- Eyewitnesses said they were terrified during a tense active shooting incident that broke out late Friday morning in Nipomo.

It led to a deadly confrontation between a gunman and law enforcement with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office and California Highway Patrol.

During the shooting spree, the suspect, who has yet to be identified, was shot and killed by law enforcement.

"It was really scary," said Leighanna Groshart. "There was small children with us and we had to run inside to take cover inside the Starbucks and we were pretty shaken up."

The Nipomo resident was sitting outside at Starbucks when the shooting started at the Vons gas station located right across the street.

"I heard a couple of loud pops, and I turned to the Vons, where I heard the pops, and there was a man standing right in front of the entrance to the Vons (gas station) store," said Groshart. "He was pointing a gun at the entrance and shooting."

The incident began at about 11:15 a.m. at 500 W. Tefft Street during what is typically one of the busiest times of the day.

"He was firing indiscriminately," said Tony Cipolla, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer. "He was firing at moving vehicles. He was shooting all over the area. We aren't exactly sure why at this time and we're not exactly sure what his motivation was."

Richard Malvarose of Nipomo was getting to go to work across the street when the shooting started.

"I grabbed my phone and called 911," said Malvarose. As I was on my phone making my initial report, the gentleman got into his vehicle, came out with a handgun and started shooting towards the customers that were pumping gas."

Malvarose said the suspect left the gas station parking lot and went into traffic.

"The guy ran out onto Tefft Street stopped a nice little old lady in her silver SUV," said Malvarose. "Trying to carjack her it looked like. Grandma was having none of that."

He added the suspect then returned to the gas station parking lot and wandered towards the CoastHills Credit Union about a 100 yards away.

"He was just screaming and yelling," said Malvarose. "Couldn't make out anything he was saying. Just waving his arms around. Stomping on the ground."

The man eventually made his way into the Vons gas station convenience store and fired shots while inside.

"I was probably about five or 10 feet away from the deputy," said Malvarose. "Guy came out, deputy told him to drop his weapon. He didn't comply and the deputy shot him right there."

According to Cipolla, deputies and a CHP officer fired upon the suspect. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. The identity of the man is pending notification of next of kin.

"Surreal," said Groshart. "When you hear the sounds, it sounded like gunshots, but your mind doesn't really believe that it's gunshots because you can't believe that's actually happening. I turned around and I see the man with the gun, and so your instincts just kick in, and we went right away inside to take cover and be safe."

Despite all the shooting by the suspect, there were no known injuries to any of the many bystanders in the area.

"I'm thankful that we have good police officers here to protect us and they got here so quickly because who knows what could have happened," said Groshart. "There were a lot of people around. If they didn't arrive so quickly, someone could have gotten hurt."

The Sheriff's Office is asking anyone who might have witnessed the shooting to call the department as it continues its investigation.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office can be reached at (805) 781-4500.

Article Topic Follows: Crime & Courts

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Dave Alley

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