Mountain lion spotted near grocery store in Lemon Grove

SAN DIEGO - A mountain lion roamed into an East County commercial district Tuesday, prompting a precautionary search of the area but eluding further sightings.

A passing driver spotted the big cat near a warehouse-style grocery store in the 7400 block of Broadway in Lemon Grove about 7:30 a.m., sheriff's Sgt. Matt Cook said. The man captured an image of the animal with his cellphone and then ran some errands before reporting the encounter about 90 minutes later.

10News asked the sheriff's department for a copy of the picture but was told the department needed permission to release it.

"The animal appeared (in the photo) to be lying in the bushes of a vacant lot just west of the Food4Less," Cook said. "Deputies checked the area but were unable to locate the mountain lion."

The patrol personnel were surprised that no one else reported seeing the "pretty big cat" in the busy area, which does not border any open-space reserves, Cook said.

"I only see cats and dogs here, that's it," said George Ortega, who works next to the vacant lot where the sighting was reported. "No mountain lions. Not in Lemon Grove."

Shoppers leaving the Food 4 Less next door told 10News they too are skeptical.

"Do we look worried? I don't think so," said shoppers Emilio and Carol Parra.     

"It's almost unbelievable. Really? In this lot?" asked Carol Parra.

"How can that be?" asked Emilio Parra. "In the middle of Lemon Grove?"

Shopper Kelshanique Riggins said she too didn't believe it.

"I'm terrified of dogs, so no I wouldn't even park right here," she said, referring to her parking spot right next to the dirt lot.

Sheriff's personnel notified the state Department of Fish and Game about the sighting.

Anyone spotting the animal was asked to call 911 immediately.

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