Three Years Later, Man Sentenced in Security Guard’s Stabbing Death in Sylmar

It took three years, but sentencing was finally handed down on Tuesday, July 28, to Santiago Madrigal for the stabbing death of Joe Lopez, a security guard at the Food 4 Less Supermarket in Sylmar.

Madrigal, 27, was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. 

Lopez was 28, only one year older than his assailant is today.

Madrigal was convicted Jan. 31 for killing Lopez on Aug. 6, 2017, when Lopez in his duties as a security guard tried to detain him for shoplifting. Lopez suspected Madrigal of stealing beer from  Food 4 Less, located on Glenoaks Boulevard near Hubbard Street at the Sylmar Towne Shopping Center. 

In addition to the first-degree murder count, Madrigal was convicted of second-degree robbery.

Lopez, a Pacoima resident, was pronounced dead at an area hospital. 

“It was a vicious assault (by an) opportunistic thief that turned  homicidal,” said Los Angeles Police Detective Efren Gutierrez. “The poor guy (Lopez) is just doing his job and ends up getting killed over what appears to be essentially a few cans of beer.”

Madrigal left a trail of blood as he fled to what police said was his nearby home, although community members believed he was a “transient.” He was arrested that same day and had been held without bail since his arrest. 

While store management said they couldn’t comment on the death of the security guard, the fatal incident raised conversations in the community about what the role of security guards should be — whether their presence should be only a visual deterrent rather than engaging and taking action to detain suspects.  

Residents organized a demonstration in front of the supermarket after Lopez was killed, expressing what they called a growing feeling of insecurity in Sylmar and an increase in the numbers of homeless people. They called for an increase in police protection, better public services and organized a Town Hall Meeting at St. Didacus Church. 

In response to the stabbing, long time resident, Emily Carranza  told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol she previously felt that Sylmar was the kind of community that was a “quiet and safe place to live,” but said,  “times have changed.” 

“People have changed and you can’t go out like before,” Carranza said.  

The Food 4 Less store has continued to have the presence of a security guard at the Sylmar location.