CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA - In a busy parking lot in the middle of the day, a woman was shot three times by a gunman apparently trying to rob a recycling center.
The 38-year-old woman, identified as Celia Webster, works as an attendant at the outdoor recycling bins. She was shot in the hand and in the leg but is expected to survive her wounds as she undergoes surgery at Mercy San Juan Hospital, according to her husband.
"Desperate times, people are doing desperate things," said a shaken Lester Webster, who was bringing his wife her cell phone when he drove up and saw a swarm of police and saw his wife being attended by paramedics
"Her clothes were torn, they said they were checking her injuries. It looked like she was walking through and somebody drove a speeding car through and hit her in the kneecaps," said Webster. "That's when I found it was a gunshot."
Just before 11 a.m., the gunman approached the woman at the recycling bins next to Fireside Lanes bowling alley on Auburn Boulevard north of Antelope Road. Ernie Robbins was driving in to recycle some cans and bottles when he heard the woman screaming and the gunman running after her.
"Then she ran around the bins, fell behind the car and he shot her about four times. Well, he shot four times. She was only hit three. Two in the hand and one in the leg," said Robbins.
After the shooting, Robbins said she saw the shooter holding the pistol as he ran away toward the back of a building, jumped on a dumpster and over a cyclone fence into Rusch Park.
Citrus Heights police responded and searched the park and nearby neighborhoods for the gunman described as in his early 20s, 6 feet tall, brown hair with a thin goatee and wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt. A police search dog picked up the scent but then lost the trail on the south side of the park, according to Sgt. Eric Mattke.
"This was an apparent attempted robbery that went wrong," said Mattke. "Middle of the day, economy's getting tight, so I guess people are hurting for money. Let's hope it doesn't continue."
Three nearby schools were put on lockdown for about two hours as a precaution during the search. The lockdown was then lifted at Mesa Verde High School, Carriage Elementary and Grand Oaks Elementary.
It was unknown if the gunman actually got any money from the victim or the recycling center, but the only motive police can surmise is robbery, since the attendant pays cash to people bringing in recyclables.
The victim has worked five days a week at the recycling center for about the past two years with only one other incident of trouble, according to her husband.
"She was held up at gunpoint but they didn't shoot and they didn't get any money. This was nine months or a year ago," he said.
Police said there's no indication the attendant knew the gunman. There were a number of witnesses and detectives hope to come up with a composite sketch of the suspect, according to Mattke.