Police continued to search Tuesday night for two robbers sought after an armored car driver was shot and killed inside the Lakewood Wal-Mart store, sending customers and employees diving for safety while thieves fled with a bag of cash.
Witnesses and investigators said one of the robbers walked up to a Loomis Armored guard as he was leaving the store, shot him in the head and fled, along with a second man, with the cash bag the guard was carrying. The guard was identified as 39-year-old Kurt Husted, a 16-year veteran of the company’s Tacoma office.
A nearby man holding a small child was shot as well. The man, who had the child on his right shoulder, was wounded in the left shoulder and fell to the ground. He was taken to Tacoma General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The child was not hurt.
The robbers’ getaway car was found abandoned in the 6600 block of South Monroe Street in Tacoma shortly after 3 p.m. Police continued to hunt for the pair into the night.
One was about 6 feet tall, average build and wore a white hat with colored trim across the bill, a long-sleeve white shirt and black pants. The second is 6 feet to 6 feet 2 and wore a blue baseball hat, blue jeans and a blue short-sleeve button-up shirt over a white T-shirt.
The two entered the store at 7001 Bridgeport Way about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday while one Loomis guard was inside and his partner waited in the truck near the main entrance.
Patti O’Callahan of University Place was near the front of the store, shopping for baby clothes, when she heard shots fired nearby.
“About two minutes after I walked in, I heard the gun go off,” she said. “Everybody was screaming and running all over the store. They were trying to find crevices to hide in.”
Lisa Potter Maul arrived at the customer service area of the store moments after the shooting and walked into chaos. “I was just walking in the door and two men ran past me,” she said. “There was a lot of people trying to get out.”
She said she saw a man lying on his stomach with a pool of blood around his head.
“I was just freaked,” she said. “I thought it was something fake.”
A witness who posted information on The News Tribune’s Web site described seeing the guard shot. “He had no chance to defend himself,” the writer said. “It happened too quick. I see it over and over again each time I close my eyes. … He had people around him in the last minutes of his life that cared. I wish I could have helped.”
Charo Canto, a Swiss citizen visiting friends in Tacoma, said she went in to buy mineral water and heard the gunfire.
“I thought it was something big – like 9/11,” she said through her friend, Cecilia Cotten, who was interpreting.
Canto said she patted herself to make sure she wasn’t wounded, and “gave thanks to God” that she was OK.
The robbers ran from the front of the store to a white 1993 Buick Skylark in the parking lot.
Officers later found the car, which was reported stolen April 20 in Tacoma, abandoned at South 66th and Monroe streets. Police dogs searched the area and were not able to find the men.
After the shooting, store employees quickly opened emergency exits at the back of the building and customers and employees fled outside. The parking lot filled with customers and employees, telling officers what they had seen.
Tacoma police, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, University Place police and a Washington State Patrol airplane helped Lakewood police investigate and control the scene.
Bridgeport Way was closed for about two hours, causing backups across the area. Nearby Mount Tahoma High School was locked down as a precaution.
Loomis spokesman Pat Flaherty said all employees carry handguns while on duty and, though it wasn’t required, Husted wore a bullet-proof vest. A Loomis employee was shot and killed last year in New Jersey, the first such shooting in at least seven years, he said.
“We’re very distraught at the loss and at the senselessness of this killing,” he said.
Brian Everstine: 253-597-8374
Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268
Staff writers Mike Archbold and Randy McCarthy contributed to this report.