With a gun pointed at him, the boy gave the robbers all he had: a single dollar bill.
That was just one example of the terror that played out early Sunday morning when a group of home invasion thieves hit three homes in El Monte, just east of Los Angeles.
“I felt somebody hit me in my head and I didn’t lose consciousness, but we kept wrestling with them,” one victim told KTLA’s Jennifer McGraw, recounting how the intruders shattered a sliding glass door to enter her home hours after they had celebrated a child’s birthday party.
“I felt helpless once they got me and they (zip) tied me,” she said. “I remember them telling (the boy), ‘Give me your money, give me your money!‘ and he pulled out a dollar and gave it to them, because that’s all he had.”
After getting what they could, the thieves turned their attention to her neighbors.
“We told them, ‘You know they don’t have anything. They’re just old people,’” she recalled. “I just heard them screaming and then the gunshots, and at that point, I was just praying like ‘Oh my God, they killed them.”
The gunfire was a warning shot. Instead, police say the victims were nearly beaten to death.
“They used a firearm and bludgeoned a few of them,” El Monte Police Sgt. Adam Choe told KTLA. “They had to go to the hospital with one remaining in critical condition (today). “
Shortly after the attacks, police arrested Ajaon Payne, 24, of Compton, and a 17-year-old. At least two other suspects remained at large Monday.
Police still aren’t sure what, besides money, the thieves may have been looking for.
“We do know that one of the suspects in custody does have a lengthy criminal history of committing crimes through the Southern California area. We don’t know if they’re part of a criminal organization but they’re not from the El Monte area,” Choe said.
Damage to homes can be repaired quickly. The victim, however, says restoring her community’s sense of security will take some time.
“They invaded our privacy and that’s not right.”