Veronica Lamaak was only gone for 15 minutes to get a biscuit the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, but by the time she got back home, her house has been ransacked and her neighbor, Craig Sandoval, had been shot twice.
She returned to her Berkeley home to find police in the alley and, moments later, that the door from her backyard to her garage has been broken down.
“In a panic I ran inside, not really thinking, and saw many of my belongings on the ground,” Lamaak said. “The door was off the hinges, my bedroom TV was on the kitchen floor, my purse was on the ground … I went into my bedroom to see that it was completely torn apart, and it finally clicked in that moment that my house had been broken into.”
She ran outside to the police, who told her they were there because her neighbor had been shot. It didn’t take them long to connect the two crimes.
Lamaak later found out what happened while she was gone. Sandoval and his wife, Marie, were in their garage when they spotted two men using a comforter to carry things out of her house and load them into a truck. One of them pointed a sawed-off shotgun at them and threatened to shoot. When Sandoval told them to leave, the man shot him twice, once in the arm and once in the stomach.
He survived, but he underwent eight hours of surgery that day and another operation on Tuesday to make sure nothing was left lodged inside of him, Lamaak said. Lamaak says he’s still at the Denver Health ICU, where he’s awake and stable. He still has to have surgery on his arm, which was broken in two places by the gunshot.
“The way I’m looking at it, he’s a hero, because I think had they not been witness to what was happening, those robbers would have continued to just take things from my home,” Lamaak said.
And that’s the way a lot of people are looking at it. A GoFundMe page created on Tuesday to help pay Sandoval’s hospital bills surpassed its $10,000 goal on Wednesday afternoon. Knowing the bills would actually be much bigger and worried that donations would stop after the goal was surpassed, Lamaak raised it to $20,000.
“I’m amazed by the outreach and the community support, it’s just amazing,” she said.
Lamaak also said that Johnny Rockets will be donating 25 percent of diners’ bills for three days to the Sandovals.