Ten minutes before three armed gunmen stormed a southwest valley Lee’s Discount Liquor location Monday night, robbing and killing the cashier, Whitney Hazlewood was at the checkout counter.
“I actually made a tumbleweed joke with Matt,” the cashier who was later shot dead, she said, in reference to how slow and quiet the 8785 W. Warm Springs Road store was just before 9:30 p.m.
At the time, she was the store’s only customer. And the cashier was someone she’d known for a few years.
“This is the kind of place I stayed for 10 minutes after I checked out to chat,” the 37-year-old woman said. “Matt was always jovial and cool. He talked to me every time.”
Though the coroner’s office hasn’t yet named the man who died, the cashier who was shot by one of the robbers minutes after Hazlewood left was in his mid-20s. Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath said the man complied with the armed robbers.
“His hands are up,” McGrath said of the cashier, describing surveillance footage from the shooting. “He’s not trying to run.”
Police believe the three armed men who robbed the store were trying to access the safe. At the time, two other employees were inside.
The business’s owner, Hae Un Lee — commonly referred to as “Mr. Lee” in the valley — confirmed the cashier didn’t have access to the store’s safe, and McGrath said the shooting may have stemmed from frustration. In a span of about three minutes, the cashier was shot multiple times. He later died at University Medical Center.
“This was an execution murder; a stupid, stupid murder,” said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who addressed the media and public in front of the southwest valley store Tuesday afternoon. “This was violent, senseless. There was no reason to shoot him multiple times.”
Pointing to photos of the three robbers, Wolfson said, “We’re gonna get them.”
The robbers were described as follows: One armed black man in his 20s, about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds. He was wearing a white hoodie over a gray hoodie, gray sweatpants and dark, high-top athletic shoes.
The second armed black man was also in his 20s, 6 feet tall and 180 pounds. He was wearing jeans, red shoes and a black hoodie that read “UNLV” in red.
The last armed black man, who is believed to have been the shooter, was also in his 20s, between 5-foot-8 and 6 feet and 240 to 260 pounds. He wore a dark green hoodie, dark pants and black shoes.
They made off with an undisclosed amount of money, McGrath said, then ran from the store and through the Rhodes Ranch strip mall, just west of the Warm Springs and Durango Drive intersection.
At some point, the men either dropped or chucked the cashier’s cellphone and wallet in the parking lot, where they were later recovered by police.
McGrath said police are also searching for a 5-foot-6 black woman, weighing about 160 pounds, who was in the store just before the robbery. She was wearing an aqua tank top and black pants.
Before the gunmen came in, the woman was on the phone, leisurely walking through the store. And when the robbers came inside, weapons drawn, she was at the checkout counter.
But she “wasn’t fazed” and calmly walked outside.
Wolfson said the woman will be important in identifying the men, adding that “if she’s part of the crime, she’s going to be prosecuted.”
Tuesday afternoon, flowers and a few cards had been placed outside the store, which was closed until today. As regular patrons parked, walked up and realized it wasn’t open, Hazlewood stood at the door.
“Matt was shot,” she said, over and over. Each was in disbelief.
“These people are part of your life,” Hazlewood said. “You go to the pet store, you go to the liquor store, and these are the people you talk to day to day. They tell you about their lives, their kids.”
As for that last conversation she had with Matt, she said, “I’m absolutely poring over it. I’m in shock.”
This was Metro’s 51st homicide this year. Anyone with information should call Metro at 702-828-3521, or Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 to remain anonymous.
Contact Rachel Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5290. Find her on Twitter: @rachelacrosby