The young Sacramento cops charged through the drugstore's front door and into chaos. Customers were screaming, baskets and boxes of medicine littered the aisles and a pharmacist lay on the ground, bleeding.
Then things really got tense.
In the rear of the store, one of the cops – with just four years on the force – was confronted by an outraged man holding a large knife to a young woman's neck, police said.
The officer had just seconds to think. He drew his .40-caliber handgun and fired, striking the alleged hostage-taker in the face and freeing the young woman.
"Pure heroism," is how the officer's supervisor, Sgt. Eric Forbeck, described it Thursday. "People take it for granted every day, but when things like this come up, these officers step up to the plate and take care of business."
The officer, a 28-year-old who already has been given the task of training the young cop by his side, is being credited with saving the life of a young pharmacist technician in what police say was a robbery gone bad Wednesday night inside the Rite Aid on Alhambra Boulevard.
Under department policy, the name of the officer who shot the suspect has not been released.
The suspect, identified by Sacramento police as 24-year-old Sacramento resident Matthew Q. Rosatelli, could face charges including attempted robbery, false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon, police said. He was in serious condition at UC Davis Medical Center on Thursday night and is expected to survive.
Rosatelli's father, Jim, told The Bee his son's actions were "hard to comprehend." The young man has never been arrested and "loves life in general," his father said.
"I know the police come into this situation and they don't know my son," Rosatelli said. "They don't know how completely out of character this is and all they see is the situation they're in."
His son has battled depression and is taking medication, Rosatelli said. Still, he seemed to be making strides and recently had expressed interest in enrolling in college to study applied physics.
"He has never, ever hurt anybody, and that's what is just so hard to comprehend, that it would escalate to that level," Rosatelli said. "This has just changed everything. This episode has changed all of our lives."
The scene began to unfold about 11:50 p.m. when police received a call that the Rite Aid at Alhambra and L Street was being robbed. According to Sacramento Police Chief Albert Nájera, the first officers on the scene knew there was an armed man inside the store, but they did not know what he was armed with or that he was holding a hostage.
"They went charging in, went right to the back and took this guy in," Nájera said. "We've learned over the years that our officers end up doing exactly what they've been trained to do. It doesn't get any better than that."
Investigators said Rosatelli had been loitering around the store Wednesday night trying to buy medication.
Once inside, Rosatelli attacked a 25-year-old pharmacy assistant who was helping him from behind the counter, police said. A 63-year-old pharmacist tried to come to the young woman's rescue but was assaulted by Rosatelli and suffered a head injury, according to investigators.
The injuries to both workers were described by police as minor. A Rite Aid spokeswoman said the company was not allowing employees to discuss the incident.
Several customers were inside the store at the time and some also tried to intervene, Sacramento Police Sgt. Matt Young said.
"There were a lot of heroes," Young said.
Mitchell Brum, a customer who was near the beer cooler at the time of the incident, said many of the other customers were "screaming and yelling."
"A lot of people just started booking out the front door," he said.
Police arrived less than three minutes after the first 911 call came in, Nájera said. The 28-year-old officer and his trainee were followed into the store by two other officers.
Believing the young woman's life was in immediate danger, the officer shot Rosatelli, Young said.
"Because of (the officer), she's still here," said Forbeck, the officer's supervisor. "He saved her life."
Rosatelli fell to the ground and officers gave him first aid, using bandages and other medical supplies from the pharmacy counter until paramedics arrived, Young said.
Sacramento Fire Department Capt. Lisa Stumpf, who works out of a firehouse across the street from the Rite Aid and was one of the first rescue workers on the scene, said the injured male pharmacist remained calm during the ordeal.
"He was actually concerned about getting medicine to other customers who had been in line," Stumpf said.
Stumpf said Rosatelli was alert and talking during his ambulance ride to the hospital.
The officer who shot Rosatelli was placed on paid administrative leave, a department policy when any officer is involved in a shooting, Young said. Homicide and internal affairs detectives were investigating the shooting, but the cop's supervisors said it appears he followed his training.
"We throw that hero term around a lot, and many of our officers are uncomfortable describing themselves as that," Nájera said. "But these were certainly very heroic actions."
Click to view image: '114878-cop_gun.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|