LAKE ELSINORE – A longtime Circle K cashier, described both as a “Lake Elsinore fixture” and “the face of Lake Elsinore” was fatally shot this morning at the convenience store he had worked at for more than 12 years. The deadly shooting happened at Circle K at 16331 Lakeshore Drive in Lake Elsinore, Wednesday, June 14.
The victim’s identity was released by Circle K officials, who called the killing of 49-year-old, Eric Whitcomb, “a senseless act of violence.”
Whitcomb was reportedly at the end of his shift when he was fatally shot and officials have not said what led up to the deadly confrontation. It was not known if the homicide was the result of a burglary or some other incident. No possible motive has been released by officials.
Early into their investigation, “information was learned” by sheriff’s officials that led them to a nearby Lake Elsinore residence on the 3400 block of Driftwood Lane, Riverside Sheriff’s representative Sgt. Chris Willison said in an interview from the scene. The residence, which is just over one-half mile from the Circle K, is north of Lakeshore Drive and east of Lake Street.
Based on information developed during their investigation, members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Services Team (SERT/SWAT) were called in to apprehend a subject Willison described as a “person of interest” in the deadly incident.
SERT members responded to the scene with no less than three, large, armored tactical rescue vehicles, and successfully detained the subject for further investigation.
During the apprehension Driftwood Lane and several surrounding streets in the neighborhood were swarmed with SERT members, deputies, investigators and other sheriff’s officials.
the identity of the person detained and what connection he has with the investigation has not been released.
Witnesses at the scene and from the surrounding community reported hearing multiple gun shots fired about the time of the incident.
Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Lake Elsinore Police Station responded to the business about 5:20 a.m., after receiving a 911 call reporting of an assault with a deadly weapon at the location.
Deputies arrived at the scene within minutes and reportedly found Whitcomb suffering from at least one gunshot wound. Officials at the scene immediately summoned firefighters and paramedics to the location. Despite life-saving efforts, Whitcomb succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.
Based on the circumstances, investigators from the Lake Elsinore Station and Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit responded to the scene and assumed the investigation.
While SERT members were apprehending the person of interest, other sheriff’s investigators and officials remained at the convenience store long into the afternoon, using a nearby Mobile Command Center as a staging point for the ongoing investigation.
During the hourslong investigation, Leonard Verdoom, the victim’s brother-in-law, stood quietly with his two sons outside the taped-off crime scene, watching over the deputies’ progress in the investigation.
Several windows at the business were shattered and crime scene markers could be seen in various places within the cordoned-off parking lot and inside the business.
As news quickly spread throughout the Lake Elsinore community, family, friends and customers alike began coming forward on social media sharing fond memories of the man they described as “easygoing,” “soft-spoken” and “liked by everyone.”
“I don’t understand…Eric never caused a single problem with anyone,” Joel Hackman, a 67-year-old, Lake Elsinore resident said after hearing about Whitcomb’s death.
Hackman, who said he lives within walking distance of the Circle K and walks to the convenience store daily said, “Everyone liked the guy … he always had a smile for everyone.”
The first official word about the fatal shooting came in the form of a one-sentence tweet from the Sheriff’s Media Information Bureau about 2:30 p.m.
Officials tweeted, “A person of interest has been detained on the 3400 block of Driftwood in Lake Elsinore regarding the homicide investigation.”
No other information has been released.
In an interview from the scene, Riverside Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Chris Willison said representatives the department’s Central Homicide Unit would be issuing a press release “at a later point in time.”
Sandra Farthing, director of human resources and training for Circle K’s West Coast division said the company had set up a GoFundMe account for anyone willing to help raise money for Whitcomb’s family. As of 9 p.m., the GoFundMe had raised $4,894 toward their goal of raising $10,000.
Anyone with information about the incident or who witnessed the fatal shooting is encouraged to contact investigators at the Lake Elsinore Police Station at (951) 245-3300.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.