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Town reeling after gas station clerk set on fire, killed

Friends of David Wicks, Kris Cantrell and Matt Blowers console each other outside the Shell gas station in Johnson Park. (Photo: Record Searchlight)

December 22, 2016

 

REDDING, Calif. — What happened at the Rocky Ledge Shell Station a few miles east of Burney on Wednesday night has left this small eastern Shasta County Community reeling and horrified.

Shortly before 7 p.m. PT, a man dressed in yellow rain gear, a black hood pulled over his head and black gloves on his hands, walked into the gas station, sprayed a flammable liquid around the store and on the likable clerk behind the counter, lit the fluid on fire, and rode off into the night on a black bicycle.

The deadly exchange — only 15 seconds long — was caught on videotape. “He literally walked in and walked back out, in a hurried motion,” Lt. Troy Clegg of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

When authorities arrived shortly after calls came in about the gas station in Highway 299 being on fire, they found 54-year-old David Wicks badly burned.

He couldn’t speak, but he could nod yes or no, Clegg said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. Deputies asked him if the attack was intentionally against Wicks, and he nodded yes.

They were unable to get anymore information out of him. Wicks died not long after. Medical personnel flew him by helicopter to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

“This is a very disturbing case, and it has affected the community in a great deal,” Clegg said.

In studying the surveillance video, investigators say that the attacker was a man who stood about 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 9 inches tall. They have little else to go on, but they did find a beach cruiser bicycle four blocks away from the gas station, on Third Street and Pine Avenue, that matched the description of the bike the killer rode away.

Sheriff’s Lt. Anthony Bertain said investigators don’t know a motive for the attack. His friends can’t understand how anyone would want to harm him.

“I can’t imagine somebody, knowing Dave, why would anybody do this?” said Kris Cantrell, who worked with Wicks and was holding back tears while speaking about him.

Rocky Ledge Shell Station owners Jaspal Singh and Devinder Sahota visited the store Thursday morning. They said they have known Wicks and his wife, Sonja, for a year. Sonja also works at the store as a manager. She came by on Thursday to pick up their car that had been parked there overnight.

“We’ve never been in a situation like this before,” Sahota said. “Our primary goal is to console Sonja.”

Sahota described David Wicks as “the best” and both he and Sonja Wicks are “like family,” he said.

Friends of Wicks also gathered outside the station in tiny Johnson Park Thursday morning to pay their respects. Someone left a candle with flowers outside of the station.

Matt Blowers, who had known Wicks for about six years, remembered Wicks as a “very nice guy” who always had a smile on his face.

“He’d see me pull in, and get my energy drink and chew for work,” he said.

Mike Gulizia, 28, a truck driver passing through from Redding, hadn’t seen Wicks for about six months. Thursday morning, he stopped by specifically to say hello, but was shocked when he found out what happened the night before.

“I could’ve stopped by three or four other places, but I knew the manager, I knew him,” he said. “I hadn’t been up here in a while, so I was stopping by to say hi.”

“Kind of makes you sink a little, right before the holidays too,” Gulizia said.

Secret Witness of Shasta County is offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest or conviction of David Wicks’ killer. Anyone with information on Wicks’ killing is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 245-6135 or email mcu@co.shasta.ca.us. Anonymous tips can also be left with Secret Witness at 243-2319 or scsecretwitness.com.