Bank robber shot to death
after grabbing officer's gun
[San Jose, CA]

< By Sean Webby
December 21, 2000, Thursday Copyright 2000 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
San Jose Mercury News
December 21, 2000, Thursday

(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- Well-dressed and with a pellet gun tucked in his waistband, the man walked into Longs Drug in Redwood City Tuesday night, right past the taped-up wanted poster with his mug on it.

He almost got away alive.

The robber walked out of the store with a bag of cash and ran smack dab into a gathering group of police. He managed to yank one of their guns away before the others shot him to death.

Investigators had not officially identified the dead man as of Wednesday pending formal identification by the San Mateo County Coroner's Office. But police believe he is Wayne Christopher Sherlock, a 33-year-old San Mateo resident with a wife, two children and the prime suspect in a string of recent drug store robberies on the Peninsula.

It was the first officer-involved shooting in Redwood City in about three years and the first such fatal shooting since 1992, according to police.

Redwood City Police Capt. Ron Matuszak said the five officers involved with the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave until an internal investigation is completed and until the officers feel comfortable coming back to work.

But in Matuszak's mind, it was a legal and last-resort shooting.

"There is no indication that the officers did anything other than what we trained them to do," Matuszak said.

Sequoia Station, in the 1000 block of El Camino Real, is Redwood City's largest shopping center, choked with traffic and people during regular business hours and especially crowded with Christmas shoppers. But as 10 p.m. approached on Tuesday, not many people were around and the stores flanking Longs - a Dress Barn and a See's Candies - were closed.

Longs was closing when the suspect walked in and drew a manager aside, as if to ask a question, according to police and a Longs official.

But instead of asking about Christmas lights or which aisle had shampoo, the man showed what looked like a handgun in his waistband and told the manager to take him to the store's safe.

An employee who overheard the conversation called 911. Police arrived minutes later _ one phalanx setting up on James Street, within view of the store's entrance.

They had just assembled when a man walked past them. As the man reached the end of their line, an officer _ noticing the man's resemblance to the broadcast description _ told a Redwood City reserve officer to detain him.

Suddenly, the suspect put his gun against the reserve officer's stomach and demanded his gun.

The officer refused, and the two started to struggle. The suspect ripped the Glock .40-caliber handgun from the officer's grasp. He turned and pointed it at the four other officers who were running toward them.

Police believe that the officers, whose names were not immediately released by the department, fired about 16 times. They are not sure how many bullets hit the suspect, who had wounds to his torso and head.

The man was dead, lying next to the officer's Glock, his own gun and a bag filled with money.

The only identification they found on the suspect was a personalized checkbook.

Sherlock was recently fired from a local Walgreen's for embezzlement, according to Matuszak. The store agreed not to prosecute Sherlock if he agreed to civil restitution.

The dead man is also suspected in at least six other similar armed drug store robberies: Rite Aids in Sunnyvale and San Mateo and Longs Drug stores in Daly City, Mountain View and San Bruno.

Police suspect Sherlock robbed the Longs Drug at the Sequoia center on Oct. 21.

Reached by phone Wednesday, the suspect's wife did not wish to comment.

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