Some struggled with the doors, failing to get them open, and instead hid or quickly made their way to the main exit at the front of the store.
They were equipped with 15-second delays from when the so-called panic bar is pushed until the doors open with alarms sounding off. Signs on the doors explain this – although someone trying to escape a shooting understandably may miss them.
At the Corona Costco, the delay system was de-activated after the shooting that left one dead because it has not yet been approved, the city’s Fire Marshal Cindi Schmitz said.
“It’s not very fun when you’re scared and you’re running for your life, and you’re trying to open a door that says ’emergency’ and they don’t open,” shopper Rochelle Flores told KTLA 5 the night of the shooting. “Everybody was freaking out. People were falling over each other.”
Some may debate whether the 15 seconds is too long or too short of a delay, but not Gary White, of GW Retail Consulting in Palm Springs.
“You have to balance the odds,” explained Ron Martinelli of Martinelli & Associates, a security consulting firm in Corona, between something drastic happening, such as an active shooter inside a store, against routine matters inside a big retail space.
The delay system is not only a backstop against grab-and-run shoplifters, but it allows time for people, who may have made an honest mistake and tried to leave by the emergency exit, to stop.
“There are a lot of subtle pieces to it,” White said. “When the alarm goes off (accidentally), that can cause a distraction – ‘someone ran out, maybe I should run out, too,’ ” White said.
The shooting by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer, Salvador Sanchez, killed Kenneth French, 32, of Lake Hills and left his parents wounded.
The shooting is under investigation by Corona police. French, unarmed and mentally disabled, either struck or pushed Sanchez as the officer held his 18-month-old son, lawyers say. The boy was unhurt and Sanchez, whose attorney said was briefly knocked unconscious, was treated and released from a local hospital. Opposing attorneys have disagreed in interviews on whether the shooting was justified.
Costco had installed the system in the Corona store and contacted the city about it last year, Schmitz said. Plans for the system were submitted to the city this April and are under review by the fire and building departments; there has been no final approval.
The day after the shooting, the city issued a cease-and-desist order for the delay system, pending the review’s outcome.
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