GoFundMe page launched for Rite Aid worker killed at Glassell Park store

A GoFundMe page has been established to help the family of a 36-year-old Glassell Park Rite Aid employee who was killed while confronting shoplifters with funeral services and legal aid, it was announced Sunday.

Miguel Penaloza was fatally shot Thursday night at the store on Eagle Rock Blvd., near Verdugo Road and the 2 Freeway, when he tried to stop two young men attempting to leave the store with a case of beer each, police said.

"While the police still search for his killers, his family and friends search for meaning and hope," a message on the page says. "Miguel's beautiful spirit touched the hearts of everyone who knew him and his death has left so many heartbroken and in disbelief. He is mourned by his whole community."

The page also notes that Penaloza is survived by his mother, father, brother, sister, three nephews and partner.

On Saturday, police released surveillance photos to the suspects. They were both 18 to 20 years old, and fled through the parking lot in an unknown direction at around 8:51 p.m. Thursday. One was described as 5-feet-6 inches tall and about 200 pounds, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, black shorts and black shoes with white trim. The second was described as 5-feet-8 inches tall and about 145 pounds, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a large square print on the back, tan or gray pants and black shoes.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man shot at a Rite Aid in Glassell Park

LAPD Central Bureau homicide detectives urged anyone with information regarding the robbery to call them at 213-996-4180 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477. Penaloza was pronounced dead at the scene. Friends and family held an emotional vigil for him Friday.

Meanwhile, the Rite Aid was expected to stay closed until at least Monday as employees mourned their colleague.

"The workers ... experienced a lot of trauma related to this incident," Kathy Finn, UFCW 770 secretary-treasurer, told City News Service.

She added that the employees are receiving grief counseling. The union that represented Penaloza is accusing Rite Aid of failing to provide adequate security for employees at its stores.

"No one should have to fear for their lives while they shop or work in a retail store. Rite Aid has refused, in store after store, to provide adequate professional security for its employees. Even after death threats and a police investigation took place in this store, the company placed profit over safety and refused security for its employees," according to the UFCW 770 statement issued Friday.

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On Saturday night, Rite Aid issued a statement. 

"Rite Aid is shocked and saddened by the killing of a valued associate at our store in Glassell Park," wrote Director of Public Relations for Rite Aid Chris Savarese. "The prayers and thoughts of the entire Rite Aid team are with our associate, his family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time. Rite Aid will offer support to the associate and his family through our associate relief fund and is offering other associates at that location support and counseling. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement authorities in their investigation."

Finn said the company told workers that more security would be added at the Glassell Park store in the future, but she lamented that it was too late to bring Penaloza back.

She said union members who work at Rite Aid and similar stores are reporting more violent incidents and fear and insecurity about being at work over the last year or two.

"I think drug stores in general, over time, have become targets because they have limited staff and security on duty," she told CNS.