Lawsuit: Walmart deserves some blame for deadly crime spree in South Valley

Rolando Soto died alone on a Sunday afternoon in December 2018, the first victim in a violent one-man rampage through Tulare County.
VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A South Valley family says Walmart deserves some of the blame for a deadly crime spree by an undocumented immigrant.

Rolando Soto died alone on a Sunday afternoon in December 2018, the first victim in a violent one-man rampage through Tulare County.

The 38-year-old victim left behind a wife and three children.

"Even though it's been almost two years, the grief is unbelievable," said plaintiff's attorney Butch Wagner.

Police determined Gustavo Garcia killed Soto on the same day he shot a farm worker, robbed an Exeter gas station, and shot a woman outside a motel.

The next day, he killed Farmersville father Rocky Jones outside a Visalia gas station before a gunfight with sheriff's deputies, a high-speed police chase, and finally, a crash that killed him.

Garcia was an undocumented immigrant with an armed robbery conviction.

"Mr. Garcia couldn't get ammunition legitimately anywhere, so he had learned that the Walmart in Tulare was an easy place to take ammunition because they didn't have the ammunition properly secured," Wagner said.

His law firm represents the Soto family in the new lawsuit against Walmart and the Jones family in a previous one.

Wagner says Walmart failed to follow state law requiring a store to have an employee between customers and ammunition, so Garcia stole his from an unprotected cabinet with a gap in the glass casings.

"So someone could just reach in there, as he did, and just move the glass a little bit with his hand pushing it, reach in there," Wagner said. "And Mr. Garcia took three boxes of Winchester 9mm ammunition, 50 rounds each. And then he proceeded to go on his killing spree."

Wagner just recorded testimony this week from two brothers who saw the theft and tried to sound an alarm.

"The witnesses went to the manager of that department at Walmart and told the manager," he said of their depositions. "The manager expressed a look like 'Well, not again. This has happened before'."

A Walmart spokesman told me they're not aware of the new lawsuit, but sent this statement:

"Our sympathies go out to the Soto family. We are a responsible seller of firearms and ammunition and have programs in place designed to sell these products consistent with the law."

The cases could take years to go to trial.
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