A 24-year-old man was identified as the suspected attacker in a bloody altercation with a Hawthorne gas station clerk who was left with multiple stab wounds but was hailed as a hero by his manager on Thursday.
Wesley Williams was held down by the employee, identified only as Sunil, until police could arrive at the scene, a Chevron station at 3760 W. Imperial Hwy. (map), according to a news release from the Hawthorne Police Department.
Williams had gone into the station's minimart to return a phone charger he had purchased earlier in the day, police said. When he was told he couldn't return the item, he grabbed the entire phone-charger display and got into a fight with the clerk.
Williams allegedly repeatedly punched the clerk and began slashing at him with a box cutter. Nonetheless, the employee was able to hold the attacker down. The victim walked out of the store, bleeding profusely, when police arrived.
Los Angeles County firefighters responding, treating the victim, who was hospitalized with injuries to his face, neck and back, police said.
The gas station is on the border of Inglewood and Hawthorne, and Hawthorne officers responded, Hawthorne police Sgt. Chris Port said.
Williams "tried to hide from officers but eventually emerged," the police news release stated. He was also hospitalized and then booked at the Hawthorne police station by 10:30 a.m., Port said.
He was being held on $100,000 bail on suspicion of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, police said. Video from the scene showed him with blood on his head and shorts.
Tension between the attacker and the employee began when the former bought a pair of headphones, exchanged them for another pair, then returned a third time to demand a refund before allegedly stealing several more pairs, according to a store clerk who did not wish to be identified.
The alleged thief tried to return the stolen headphones for a refund when the fight broke out between him and Sunil, the clerk said.
A second employee called police during the fight, the station manager said.
“(Sunil) is truly a hero. They are both heroes. They did a great job for us, and I hope that people understand that it’s not worth taking somebody’s life for such a small thing,” manager Moti Balyan said. “We’ve told them several times not to fight for the property -- it’s not worth it. But this time they were frustrated.”
The clerk, who was in his late 20s, is from India and does not have family in the area, Balyan said.
“Chevron is his family and we take care of our employees very well. I was with him in the hospital and after that I’m going back and we will take care of him,” Balyan said. “Even if there isn’t insurance, family is there for him to stand, and we will take care of him in every way.”
The altercation was caught on surveillance video, which Balyan said would be given to investigators.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated the incident occurred in Inglewood. In fact, it occurred on near Hawthorne's border with Inglewood. The story has been updated.