San Jose security guard thankful coworker saved his life in shooting

Tuesday, February 17, 2015
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Security guard Manny Zuniga is being remembered as a hero after he jumped in the line of fire to protect his partner during a robbery.

EAST SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A security guard who was fatally shot outside a liquor store in the South Bay is being called a hero. Manny Zuniga was shot at an East San Jose shopping center on North Capitol Avenue on Saturday night.

Monday night was the second night in a row where friends and family held a vigil. This time, though, a fellow security guard talked about how Zuniga died while saving his life.

At the vigil people released balloons; they say it was their way of reaching Zuniga in heaven. To them, he's an angel and a hero.

Zuniga, a security guard at the BBOSS Restaurant and bar, was shot and killed Saturday night while chasing down a thief who stole cigarellos from the liquor store next door.

Jonathan Morales was working with Zuniga that night. He didn't want his face shown until the suspects are caught. He said, "The guys could have driven away, but instead one of the guys stuck out a gun and started shooting at us."

It was that moment when Zuniga did what he could to protect those around him. Morales said Zuniga is the only reason he's alive today.

"I noticed Manny jumped in front the line of fire. He then... he then... took all the bullets that were aimed directly at me and saved my life," Morales said.

San Jose police seized the liquor store's camera and video but have yet to release any suspect information. Friends and colleagues are demanding justice. Zuniga was a father of two young children.

"I just hope the guys that did this turn themselves in because they didn't deserve to take a life away just for some stupid little cigarettes," Morales said.

It was a petty theft that led to the death of a beloved colleague, father and friend.

Liquor store owner describes shooting

Sonny Gia owns the liquor store next door and as a favor to him, Zuniga kept an eye on his business. That's what Zuniga was doing the night he was shot and killed.

Two men came into the liquor store shortly before 10 p.m. They bought a bottle of Cognac for $17.99. Then, one of them came back minutes later and snatched a display box of cheap cigarellos and ran out to a waiting car.

Zuniga was standing outside the nightclub when the man tripped and dropped the cigars as he entered the car. Then, Zuniga went to pick them up when someone in the car fired at him.

"He don't know they have gun in there. They got a gun ready to shoot and they shoot, boom, boom," Gia said.

One bullet smashed the store window and another round killed Zuniga.

Another security guard, Morales, was right behind Zuniga when the shooting began.

Morales' mother calls Zuniga a hero. "Manny jumped in the line of fire to save my son. He took his life for my son. And I will forever be grateful for him, to him, to his family, to his children," Sandra Morales said.

Gia says he cried when he heard Zuniga died at the hospital.

The box of cigars he says was worth maybe $20. "For $20, they can kill a human," he said.

Zuniga whose heroism saved another man's life, was murdered for a box of cheap cigars.

If you'd like to make a donation to help the family pay for funeral expenses, click here.