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Authorities hope $55,000 reward will help identify killer in El Monte robbery

A $55,000 reward is being offered for information about a masked robber who shot and killed a young restaurant employee in El Monte on Oct. 21 and apparently robbed a sandwich shop in nearby Irwindale a few days earlier, authorities announced on Nov. 7. 

Juan Manuel Vidal, 25, was working the drive-through window at Jack in the Box around 7:40 p.m. when the robber barreled over the counter of the restaurant in the 9200 block of Flair Drive. Seconds later, Vidal was shot once in the chest and the robber fled to a waiting dark-colored sedan, last seen driving east on Flair Drive. 

“We hope this reward motivates someone to say something,” El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso said during a news conference Nov. 7. “This is a case that can’t go unsolved. The killer is a coward and a threat to our city and every surrounding community."

The El Monte City Council unanimously approved a $25,000 reward, Reynoso said, which will be combined with a $20,000 reward from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and $10,000 from Jack in the Box. The reward is for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robber and his accomplice, the chief said. 

LASD Homicide Det. Adan Torres said the shooter is also a suspect in a robbery that occurred “two or three days” before Vidal was killed, in a Subway sandwich shop at 5200 Rivergrade Road in Irwindale, about eight miles north.

The robber stole cash from the Subway, Torres said. Surveillance videos from both robberies show a man wearing a long-sleeve shirt, khaki-colored shorts and a mask with a bushy mustache and large nose. 

Paramedics tried to revive Vidal, a recent pharmacy tech graduate from UEI College, but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 8:15 p.m.

“Mr. Vidal represented everything that is good in our community,” Reynoso said. “He was a hardworking young man who was educating himself for a bright future. He loved his family. He belonged to our local church. He went to our schools, and he was truly an innocent victim in this case.”

Vidal’s mother, Mary Smay, also spoke briefly at the news conference, pleading for information. “He might do this to another family,” Smay said. “I really pray that somebody who knows this man will turn him in. He has no business out running the streets. ... He needs to be put away.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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